Sun, Mar 30, 2014 - Page 3 News List

TRADE PACT SIEGE: Fear motivates students: educators

‘VOLCANIC ERUPTION’:Insecurities about the future in terms of obtaining jobs and a devaluation of college degrees are fueling the students’ protests, educators said

By Rachel Lin, Kan Chih-chi and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Several educators yesterday said the ongoing student movement against the cross-strait service trade agreement was galvanized by the younger generation’s fear that the pact could in effect flush their college diplomas down the toilet and add to the uncertainty of their future.

They made the remarks at a press conference on the nation’s widening education-jobs gap yesterday as the students’ unprecedented occupation of the legislature entered its 12th day.

Taipei Municipal Zhongshan Girls High School teacher Tuan Hsin-yi (段心儀), who is also a member of the Forum on Checking Educational Reform, said youngsters nowadays were devastated by the lack of hope for their future as the country continued to be plagued by problems of overworking, rocketing property prices and plummeting salaries.

“The student movement is just the first wave of a series of ‘volcanic eruptions,’” Tuan said.

National Taiwan University (NTU) College of Social Sciences Dean Lin Hui-lin (林惠玲) said just one-third of the 10.7 million students entering the employment market in 2011 had obtained jobs that required a college degree.

“In addition, about 600,000 of the 4 million students who graduated from college were forced to settle for jobs that junior or senior-high school graduates would qualify for,” Lin said.

NTU Institute of Applied Mechanics professor Wang Li-sheng (王立昇) attributed the growing education-jobs gap to the government’s policy to establish many senior-high schools and universities across the country.

“Thirty years ago, the country produced only about 28,000 college graduates each year, but that number has climbed dramatically to 230,000 at present. If the number of students graduating from postgraduate schools every year is also counted, the figure could stand at more than 300,000,” Wang said.

Yet because the industry’s demand for college graduates has not increased much over the past two decades, the imbalance has led to a severe depreciation of college degrees, Wang said.

“Take the manufacturing industry as an example. Most college graduates aim for jobs as a technician or an engineer, but these positions account for less than 30 percent of the 2 million jobs offered by the industry,” Wang said, adding that the lack of suitable positions often forced college graduates to accept low-level jobs in labor-intensive sectors.

Meanwhile, about 73 percent of the respondents to a survey released by the online job board yes123 yesterday expressed concern about their job opportunities being hindered by the cross-strait treaty, with 26.4 percent not concerned.

About 65.7 percent of respondents worried that their salaries could be affected, while 34.3 percent said they were not worried.

The poll also found that most first-time jobseekers looked for jobs through job-matching Web sites (48.4 percent) and began their application process before they graduated or had completed their compulsory military service (78.2 percent).

About 38.4 percent of those polled found job-hunting more difficult than a year ago, while 37.3 percent had a lower salary expectation this year compared with a year ago.

Despite an uncertain future, about 30 percent of respondents were willing to spend up to three years pursuing their dreams, including studying abroad, cultivating a second speciality and starting a business venture.

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