With a declining economy, rising prices and stagnant wages, 77 percent of office workers in an online survey said they were willing to switch to skilled blue-collar jobs because graduate education is no longer the guarantee to a good job that it once was.
The top choices for a new career were bakers, plumbers and electricians, online job board yes123, which conducted the survey, said at a press conference on Tuesday.
A majority — 66.9 percent — of white-collar workers who said they would consider switching career tracks said they would do so because of worries about “diploma devaluation.”
“Pressure due to stagnant wages” (59.6 percent) and “training or school diploma not matching employers’ needs” (48.9 percent) were the next most common responses.
A former elementary-school teacher turned bureaucrat, Chen Jung-teng (陳榮豋) is one such worker who moved from white-collar to blue-collar. After switching from teaching, he climbed the career ladder to become a section chief in a government agency.
“It was all going smoothly with my work. So when I lost my job because of my age, it was very hard to take,” Chen told the press conference.
He decided to start over, putting away the traditional stigma of manual labor, and enrolled in plumbing and electrical repair classes. After some years of diligent work, Chen is now a store manager for Living Rescue International Co, reputedly Taiwan’s largest franchise chain for household repairs and cleaning services.
Wang Ta-wei (王大維) and Wei Shih-hsuan (衛世軒) also recounted their experiences. Both men have master’s degrees and used to work as engineers. Wang now runs an ice cream shop and Wei is a motorcycle mechanic.
“Working in a restaurant or in the food catering business was always an interest,” Wang said. “Striking out on one’s own to operate a store requires just about the same hard work as being an engineer. So why not work in a job that you love?”
“Now I work more than 12 hours a day in my ice cream shop, but I love my job,” he said.
Wei’s father has long run a motorcycle shop, so he sees many advantages to his career switch. He is taking over the family business, using an in-demand trade skill and he no longer has to worry about getting laid off.
Most of the respondents said Taiwan is in an era of “devaluation of school degrees.” Only 31.5 percent percent indicated they want to continue their education to the master’s level or doctoral studies.
Looking at current salary structures, 89.5 percent of respondents said the return on their investment in education is too low, while 53 percent said having a master’s or a doctorate would not enhance their competitiveness in the job market.
Asked what trades they would be interested in learning or working in, bread and pastry making came in first with 13.2 percent, followed by plumbing and electrical repair with 11.8 percent and telecommunications repair and maintenance at 10.9 percent.
The survey was conducted between May 10 and July 10 and gathered 1,083 valid responses.