Given the difficulty finding work and stagnant salaries, Taipei has seen a surge in the number of people applying for vocational training to be a mortician.
Officials at the Taipei Vocational Training Center, a unit of Taipei City’s Department of Labor, said they are receiving more than 100 applications for the 30 spots in the mortician training course offered each semester.
Interest in the profession has risen following the success of the 2008 Japanese film Departures, a story about an out-of-work musician who applies for a job “assisting departures” and learns to be a mortician. The movie won the 2009 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
In Taiwan, the movie gave the public a glimpse into the life and work of morticians and funeral service providers. The occupation has since become a popular choice for young people, as well as an option for middle-aged people looking for a career change.
Well-trained morticians must know how to maintain a professional attitude and be dedicated to their job, so they can help the bereaved family.
A woman in her 40s who lost her job at a travel agency and was having difficulty finding work decided to sign up for the center’s mortician course.
The woman, surnamed Liu (劉), said she completed the 360 hours of training and passed the Class C certification for funeral service. She now works as a mortician, with a monthly salary of more than NT$50,000.
The center’s funeral service course started in 2008, and the number of student applicants has increased every year. The center now offers three free training courses throughout the year.
Given the rising demand, an official at the center said that certification for Class B technician for funeral services and an advanced course would be added to the city’s vocational licensing test by the end of this year.
The official added that a Class B license holder can earn about NT$50,000 a month.
Shih Chen-su (施貞夙), a secretary at the center, said that morticians work in a special environment with unique work demands.
“Not everyone is suited to be a mortician,” she said, adding that the center selects students after conducting personal interviews.
“We have to choose students with care, because in Taiwanese society there are several taboos regarding matters of death. We also need to look at their psychological well-being, so the applicants should conduct a self-assessment first,” Shih said.