The government has recently reinforced its ban on job banks helping companies to recruit Taiwanese staff to work in China and told them to delete any such vacancies from their listings.
From the short-term national security perspective, I completely support the ban, given the close connection between talent flow and national security.
However, this ban can only cure the symptom. The only way to cure the cause is to think harder about why talented Taiwanese can be poached by China.
People can accuse China of twisting the arms of Taiwanese with crude offers of big money.
However, on the other hand, why are Chinese companies willing to pay salaries at least twice as high as their Taiwanese competitors for the same employees, while Taiwanese firms think they pay their employees too much?
A friend of mine told me something about his experience of negotiating salaries with Taiwanese and Chinese companies. In summary, although China does have a tendency to grab employees by offering high salaries, this is aimed not only at Taiwanese, but to grab talent from around the world.
In contrast, when Taiwanese companies talk about salaries, they often start by saying: “You know, the situation here in Taiwan is a bit different from China, so salaries here can hardly compare with over there.”
The salaries they offer are usually less than half of those in China, or even only one-third. How, then, can Taiwan expect to retain talent, let alone attract talent from all over the world?
The problem is clearly a matter of salaries. According to news reports, most of the vacancies deleted from job bank listings were in preschool education.
This shows that the outflow of talent from Taiwan does not only affect the technology sector.
Brain drain is an unfortunate result of Taiwan’s long-standing practice of keeping salaries low. Talented people might go over to China, or they might go off to Japan, South Korea, the US or Europe.
This is a long-term national security problem, and the solution is definitely not to restrict the publication of recruitment ads.
When salary earners feel that their talent is out of proportion to their salary, this discrepancy becomes a loophole through which China can influence Taiwan’s national security.
Yang Li-jing is a freelancer.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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