The government must take a serious look at the nation’s deteriorating job market and focus on boosting employment and offering expeditious financial aid to the unemployed, particularly recent graduates, as some employers have either stopped hiring or downsized their operations, while some businesses have closed due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the nation’s export-oriented economy is forecast to expand at an annual rate of 5.46 percent this year, most people would not immediately benefit from such growth amid an ever-rising jobless rate.
Last month, the unemployment rate climbed to 4.8 percent, the highest in 11 years, according to the latest data from the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS). Young people aged 20 to 24 have suffered the brunt of the job crunch, with unemployment at 13.41 percent, followed by teenagers aged 15 to 19 at 9.5 percent, and 25-to-29-year-olds at 7.58 percent.
The employment prospects are worsening this month as recent graduates enter the job market, while a partial relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions has failed to help flailing businesses. With scant jobless benefits, tough times are here to stay for a while and financial hardships are expected to continue.
The Ministry of Labor last month extended a job incentive program for new graduates, offering up to NT$30,000 for those who land a job and stay in the post for six months. As part of the program, the ministry would also pay NT$3,000 to NT$8,000 per month for those who participate in job training classes. The program, introduced last year, aims to encourage recent graduates to join the job market as quickly as they can.
However, those incentives are inaccessible to most new graduates, or about 87.3 percent of 270,000 graduates this year, based on a survey by 1111 Job Bank, who are still unemployed. That equals 180,000 graduates who are out of work and facing imminent trouble paying their bills soon after leaving school.
The program is also ineffective at boosting young people’s employment prospects, as reflected in the upswing shown in the latest tally from DGBAS.
The government needs a more effective way to help unemployed university graduates, and offer them an allowance to help them overcome financial difficulties. Such an allowance would be vital for those young people, as it takes more than six months on average for first-time jobseekers to land a job, 1111 Job Bank’s survey showed.
Most new graduates have little money saved from part-time jobs held while attending university. Their savings can support them for only four months. It is even worse that some of them have been dismissed from work during the COVID-19 pandemic as disease prevention measures ban dining in restaurants and restrict tourism, transportation and nearly all recreational activities. Without labor insurance, most graduates are ineligible for unemployment benefits and immediately feel the pinch.
A report from the Legislative Yuan’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Bureau suggested that the government should help young graduates by offering short-term allowances, but provided no details and no substantial evaluations for such a program. Some legislators yesterday addressed the issue, proposing to distribute NT$10,000 per month for as long as three months to new graduates looking for jobs.
The allowance distribution proposal should be feasible, given that it would be a minor burden to the national coffers. The question is how fast the government can make this happen, as it still requires amendments to regulations.
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