Youth face un­prece­dented eco­nomic woe: schol­ars

The China Post - - LOCAL - BY YUAN-MING CHIAO

The so­cio-eco­nomic chal­lenges faced by Tai­wanese youth re­quire dras­tic ad­just­ment to the na­tion’s wage struc­ture to counter ex­ploitive poli­cies that ex­pand the prob­lem, a panel of schol­ars con­cluded yes­ter­day in Taipei.

The panel, “The Blue­print of Youth Labour,” was or­ga­nized by the Youth Ser­vice Tai­wan Foun­da­tion ( YST, ) and chaired by Cheng Li-chun ( ), the foun­da­tion’s chair­woman and a leg­is­la­tor af­fil­i­ated with the Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party.

Cheng iden­ti­fied youth unem- ploy­ment, de­clin­ing wages and over­work as un­prece­dented chal­lenges faced by the gen­er­a­tion com­ing of age, in which hard work and ef­fort alone no longer guar­an­tee a sta­ble in­come. Re­fer­ring to cost of living statis­tics from the Min­istry of the In­te­rior, she called for an ad­just­ment to the ba­sic wage to NT$26,680 per month.

She was joined by Na­tional Cheng-chi as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor Lin Chia-Ho ( ), Lee Chien-hung ( ), a pro­fes­sor at the Na­tional Chi­nese Cul­tural Uni­ver­sity, Hung Ching-shu ( ) of the Re­search Cen­ter of Work­ing Poor, Sun YuLien ( ), gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Tai­wan La­bor Front, Chang Feng-yi ( ) CEO of the Tai­wan La­bor and So­cial Pol­icy Re­search As­so­ci­a­tion, and Chen Jin-ji (

), deputy chair of the YST.

Youth Un­em­ploy­ment at

15 Per­cent

Pro­vid­ing the so­cial con­text by men­tion­ing a study com­pleted in the United King­dom iden­ti­fy­ing the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion as the first that would be worse off than their par­ents since the con­clu­sion of World War II, Lin claimed that youth un­em­ploy­ment in Tai­wan may have reached 15 per­cent. He also men­tioned that Tai­wan’s pro­duc- tion chain, with its over-re­liance on Chi­nese pro­duc­tion, was keep­ing wages stag­nant.

25- to 29-year-olds Make Up 40 per­cent of Temp Work­ers

Hung elab­o­rated on the preva­lence of la­bor over­sup­ply in Tai­wan, driv­ing down the bar­gain­ing power of la­bor. He iden­ti­fied com­pany hir­ing of for­eign work­ers as the main cul­prit be­hind the prob­lem, driv­ing wages down and cre­at­ing an in­flux for tem­po­rary po­si­tions that have fewer or no so­cial benefits.

In dis­cussing the pre­car­i­ous na­ture of tem­po­rary and flex­i­ble work­ing ar­range­ments for which the age group of 25-29 ac­counts for 40 per­cent, Lee ar­gued for sol­i­dar­ity among la­bor groups in en­sur­ing that th­ese work­ers are given the same so­cial benefits and guar­an­tees as those who work full-time jobs. He also chas­tised the cur­rent gov­ern­ment for ex­ac­er­bat­ing the process by in­creas­ing the num­ber tem­po­rary po­si­tions to 10,500 — many con­tracted by the Min­istry of La­bor and the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion.

Pro­posed Wage Amend­ments Crit­i­cized

Chen fur­thered the dis­cus­sion on the for­eign la­bor di­men­sion, in­di­cat­ing that ap­prox­i­mately 550,000 for­eign work­ers are cur­rently em­ployed on the is­land, and cur­rent ideas to pro­mote wage in­creases were short-term so­lu­tions that de­pended on the whims of busi­nesses. He also ar­gued that the pro­duc­tion struc­ture in its over­re­liance on sec­tors that de­pend on Chi­nese pro­duc­tion was dis­plac­ing in­vest­ment in Tai­wan it­self.

An im­por­tant step in re­vers­ing the race to lower wages and pre­car­i­ous work would be guar­an­tee­ing wage equal­ity and en­sur­ing a more hu­mane work­ing en­vi­ron­ment for the na­tion’s for­eign

work­ers, said Sun.

More Trans­par­ent Wage Ne­go­ti­a­tions among Pro­posed

Changes

All the schol­ars ad­vo­cated the en­act­ing of min­i­mum wage stan­dards for the na­tion, cit­ing the ex­am­ples of the United King­dom and the United States. While Chang touted the need for a uni­fied pen­sion sys­tem that would do away with dif­fer­ent con­tri­bu­tion rates along sec­tors, Chen ar­gued that the key to more sus­tain­able wage ne­go­ti­a­tions lay in the trans­parency of re­mu­ner­a­tion com­mit­tees, which are cur­rently dom­i­nated by busi­ness in­ter­ests.

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