President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has failed to address high rates of unemployment among the young and the record-low proposed budget for next year’s infrastructure developments could worsen the situation, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus said yesterday.
A total budget of NT$379.1 billion (US$12.6 billion) for public construction projects next year would signify a decrease of NT$19.4 billion compared with this year and is among the lowest in a decade, DPP Legislator Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) told a press conference.
An infrastructure budget decrease would make it difficult for the government to create jobs, in particular those for young people who have been suffering within a stagnant domestic economy, she said.
The rate of unemployment among those aged between 15 and 24 has been relatively high since Ma took office in 2008, Cheng said.
Joblessness among that age group stood at 11.8 percent in 2008, 14.49 percent in 2009 and it stands at 12.96 percent this year.
What was thought to be a result of the global financial crisis is actually attributable to structural unemployment because the rate of unemployment has consistently hovered between 11 and 14 percent, Cheng said.
Youth unemployment rates were about three times the national average — much higher than the standard set by most OECD countries, she added.
Other statistics all pose concerns, she said, with 50.97 percent of the 15-19 age group and 20.61 percent of the 20-24 age group “atypical employees,” which means they are not employed full time.
Average monthly wages for full-time employees aged between 15 and 24 is NT$21,000, while 63 percent of young people under 30 years of age earn less than NT$30,000 a month, Cheng said.
Young people suffering within the job market has led to a series of problems, including a reduction in the number of people marrying and having children, while very few can afford the high price of housing, Cheng said.
The lawmaker said the DPP would strictly screen the budget plan in the legislature and she urged Ma to implement policies that could improve people’s well-being.
In defense of the budget plan, Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) said the government has earmarked NT$191.2 billion for public construction projects, an increase of NT$6.1 billion, or 3.3 percent, compared with this year.
Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) Minister Shih Su-mei (石素梅) said that if expenditures from special budgets and state-owned enterprises’ budgets were included, the total budget for public construction projects next year would show a decrease of NT$19.4 billion, mainly due to the completion of a project by state-owned oil refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油) at the end of this year.