Youth face unprecedented economic woe: scholars
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
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
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.