The nation’s labor market reported a mixed performance last year, as the workforce declined annually for the first time in more than a decade due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while real average monthly earnings hit a record thanks to deflation, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said yesterday.
Last year’s average number of employees shrank by 12,000, or minus-0.15 percent, from a year earlier to 7.95 million, the first fall since 2009, when the workforce dipped 2.49 percent amid the financial crisis, the agency told a news conference in Taipei.
The workforce fell last year as many firms were beaten by the COVID-19 pandemic and had to let employees go, with the number of workers in the tourism and dining sector dropping by 27,000 from a year earlier, the largest fall among all sectors, the agency’s data showed.
“Although some local firms chose to have their staff take unpaid leave since March last year to weather the pandemic, which would not lower the nation’s employment number, some other firms could not even offer the option, as they were too hurt,” a bureau official surnamed Chen (陳) said.
The number of employees in the manufacturing sector dipped by 14,000, followed by falls of 6,000 in the textile sector and machine manufacturing respectively, the data showed.
Other sectors reported growth in their employment numbers, offsetting the impact, such as the health and medical sector with a rise of 13,000 workers, 6,000 in the construction sector and 4,000 in computer and electronics, the data showed.
The pandemic also slowed earnings growth, as last year’s average take-home pay grew 1.47 percent from a year earlier to NT$42,498, the slowest pace of increases after wage gains of 1.82 percent, 2.58 percent and 2.26 percent in 2017, 2018 and 2019 respectively, the agency said.
That was because companies were conservative in increasing staff salaries, as the pandemic clouded the economic outlook, although Taiwan turned out to have done well compared with other countries, with GDP growth of 2.98 percent, it said.
Companies in the information and communications industry raised monthly wages by 3.22 percent to NT$60,803, the highest rise among all sectors, whereas the air travel sector cut wages by 8.69 percent to NT$70,925, the steepest fall, the data showed.
While nominal average take-home pay only rose slightly last year, real average pay advanced 1.7 percent to NT$41,538, the largest increase over the past two decades, thanks to a 0.23 percent fall in the consumer price index (CPI), the data showed.
The real wage figure smashed the previous record of NT$40,922 in 2003, the agency said.
“In other words, although employees did not see a large increase in earnings last year, they felt they could buy more goods or services due to the falling CPI,” Chen said.
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