A growing number of Taiwanese who are eligible for, or were working in, white-collar jobs are forsaking office life for jobs that are sometimes better paid, but have commonly been perceived to be the province of the working class, the BBC reported earlier this week.
The report focused on Sam Wei, a 28-year-old with a master’s degree in engineering, who quit his job at a high-tech firm to work in his father’s scooter repair shop.
Wei said that he had high hopes when he was fresh out of college, but found that his pay did not equate with the amount of work he was doing, adding that it was the impetus for him to return home and take over the scooter repair shop from his aging father.
The report also featured Nick Chen, a 50-year-old who had worked as the head of an IT department at the local county council and was unable to find a job after being laid off due to his age.
Now working as a laborer doing repairs to gas pipes, plumbing and electrical wiring, Chen said that he had at first been unable to come to terms with the radical change of career, adding that he had been ashamed to tell others that he, as a highly educated individual, was now reduced to fixing pipes, the report said.
Taipei City Vocational Development Institute director Kao Chun-yi (高俊儀) and online job bank yes123 also said that such a trend is developing.
Noting the increasing number of individuals attending the institute who had at least studied at college and even some with doctorates, Kao said that a high literacy level and the number of people who have been highly educated have perhaps cheapened the value of diplomas, adding that some are now of the mind that having a skill set is a better option.
An Internet poll by yes123 also revealed that more than 77 percent of white-collar workers are considering changing tack and taking on a blue-collar job, with the primary reason being that the wages paid to white-collar workers are too low and the threshold for better-paying jobs too high.
Electricians said that although such a trend is slowly starting to appear, some stereotypes are difficult to eliminate.
The common stereotype about electricians is that it is a working class job, for the uneducated, a company was quoted as saying, adding that it is still difficult to hire apprentices.
The Ministry of Education is making efforts to promote skill-set education and the Council of Labor Affairs has even revealed that an electrician’s average pay is actually higher than the average for a white-collar worker, the company said, adding that the majority of society still adheres to the concept that educated white-collar work is better than fixing pipes and electrical wiring.
The council conducted a survey in 2011 which revealed that the average wage for an electrician stood at about NT$37,800 — NT$11,800 more than the average NT$26,000 for a white-collar worker fresh out of college.
The company said that a shortage of manpower in the industry due to stereotyping meant companies now look to take on large jobs, such as renovations, and are reluctant to take on smaller, individual jobs such as a blocked pipe.
Wei said that his college friends had expressed shock and incredulity when they learned of his new occupation.
“Most people think this type of work is dirty and it is done by people who didn’t study, but I don’t think that’s true. It requires a lot of skill and I’m learning a lot,” Wei said.