Non-governmental organization (NGO) members and labor rights activists yesterday said that the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) performance in the education and labor affairs sectors during its eight years in power from 2000 to 2008 might not have been as good as it thought.
At the third of a four-part forum to review its eight-year governance and lay out the vision that would boost its hopes of returning to power in 2016, the DPP yesterday gathered former government officials, academics and civic groups’ representatives to examine its performance in the five areas of education, social welfare, labor affairs, health and the judiciary.
On education, former education minister Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) highlighted the facilitation of the “awakening of the Taiwan identity” and the liberalization from the Fascism-driven system in the past authoritarian regime as one of the DPP administration’s most successful achievements.
However, Ding Gih-jen (丁志仁), leader of the Jendo Education Society (振鐸學會), an educational reform group, argued that the party’s Taiwanization movement in revising the school curriculum, in particular in history textbooks, has been a “miscalculated policy.”
“The best policy [for a government] is neutrality. As Taiwan has been a predominantly Hoklo [commonly known as Taiwanese] society, in which Hoklo-speaking people accounted for about 70 percent of the population, the curriculum would become naturally localized over the years,” Ding said. “The DPP government’s intentional and large-scale Taiwanization movement — its failure of staying neutral on the issue — had given the minority a legitimate reason to interfere with discussions over the curriculum,” he said, referring to recent efforts by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to change the curriculum back to a China-centrist ideology.
Ding also questioned the party’s decision to establish as many high schools and universities as possible, saying that while the policy helped more people receive higher education, which was not a bad thing, it also contributed to a high youth unemployment rate, poor academic performance of private universities and the demise of the once-proud vocational education system.
Tu admitted that a decreasing birth rate was not considered in policy-making at the time.
Meanwhile, dozens of representatives from labor rights groups, among them the Taiwan International Workers’ Association and the Labor Rights Association, protested at noon outside the National Taiwan University (NTU) Convention Center — the venue for the forum — saying that the DPP had not fared any better than the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in terms of its labor policy.
The protesters briefly engaged in a heated exchange with DPP Legislator Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), who served as minister of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) under the DPP administration, before Lee chaired a panel discussion on labor affairs.
The number of migrant workers increased by 20 percent and the minimum wage was raised only once during the DPP’s eight years in office, the protesters said, adding that the party has always sided with management and ignored workers’ rights.
Lee was low-key about the criticism by the protesters in his remarks at the discussion, but he rejected a claim that the DPP’s labor policy was “cold-blooded.”
Citing the DPP’s insistence on keeping the minimum wages of local and migrant workers the same, Lu Tien-lin (盧天麟), also a former Council of Labor Affairs minister, reiterated that the party continues to hold different values and ideology compared with the KMT.
Looking ahead, NTU associate professor Hsin Ping-lung (辛炳隆) said the DPP would deal cautiously with a number of labor issues if it returned to power, including the phenomenon of working poor, the minimum wage, the high jobless rate among young people and whether Taiwan should accept more migrant workers.