Taiwan's average real income over the first six months of 2009 has fallen to a level equal to that posted in 1996, as companies adjust their hiring patterns to cope with the global economic slump.
Real monthly earnings (including regular and irregular income) averaged NT$42,909 (US$1,305.81) in the first six months of the year, 6.84 percent lower than for the same period a year ago, according to figures released by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) on Monday.
The decline in real monthly earnings was the largest such fall since the government began compiling employment-related statistics in 1978.
The January-June average was about the same as the NT$42,744 recorded for the first six months of 1996, the DGBAS tallies showed.
DGBAS officials said that although the number of people employed in Taiwan has risen every month from April to July, average wages or salaries had continued to decline.
They attributed the decline to the global economic slump and the rise of unconventional employment modes, such as temporary or part-time jobs with hourly-based wages.
Cheng Chih-yu, a professor in National Chengchi University's Graduate Institute of Labor Research, said Taiwanese employers, battered by the global economic crunch, have resorted to using temporary or "dispatched" workers to lower personnel costs.
Cheng asserted, however, that negative growth in the average wage rate will not last forever.
"The negative growth nightmare will be gone as soon as the domestic economy bottoms out from its quagmire and unemployment drops," Cheng predicted.
According the latest DGBAS tallies released Monday, Taiwan's unemployment rate rose to a record high of 6.07 percent in July and could rise again in August as more new entrants to the job market struggle to find work.
The government said the country's jobless rate would reach its peak in July or August before gradually easing in September, but Cheng argued that the devastation wrought by Typhoon Morakot in southern Taiwan might exacerbate unemployment.
DGBAS officials estimated that the floods and mudslides triggered by the typhoon affected only 60,000 people, and would have little impact on the country's jobless rate, but Cheng believed that the tourism, agriculture and aquaculture sectors would take at least one year to recover from the storm and also suffer job losses.
Cabinet officials said Monday that the improving global economy and huge amounts of funds and resources that will be channeled into disaster areas for reconstruction projects would help offset some of the typhoon's negative impact.
"If the post-disaster reconstruction projects are carried out efficiently, it will help solve the jobless problem in disaster areas and boost demand in the building and construction market as well, " an official said.