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Economic Daily News: Pay attention to the low-wage problem

Economic Daily News: Pay attention to the low-wage problem

According to the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, 57.9 percent of workers in Taiwan were paid below NT$35,000 (US$1,157) in May 2011, up from 56.3 percent in the same month of 2008. The percentage of workers who received over NT$60,000 jumped from 10.5 percent in May 2008 to 11.2 percent in May 2011, while those earning between NT$35,000 and NT$45,000 dropped from 19.7 percent to 17.6 percent. These figures not only demonstrate that more workers are being paid below average, but also show there is a movement toward an M-shaped income distribution marked by a decrease of medium-paid workers. Meanwhile, the number of young workers aged 15 to 24 fell 8.3 percent during the period, with the number of workers receiving below NT$15,000 a month soaring by 34 percent. This may be a sign that young people are being forced to assume part-time work or unstable jobs because they cannot access higher-paid full-time jobs. Some may have become unemployed and withdrawn from the labor market as a result. Such a phenomenon is worrisome. Young people are newcomers to the labor market, and changes in their income structure reflect changes in the current employment situation. In addition, the pursuit for part-time jobs by young people is likely to squeeze the number of job opportunities for older workers. Over the past three years, the number of workers aged 12-24 who are paid below NT$15,000 has risen by 31,000, while those aged 25-44 fell by 22,000. The government should pay attention to the phenomenon and its underlying problems and take steps to deal with them. Our government officials, however, may not be able to feel the severity of the issue, given that the number of government employees who earn over NT$60,000 a month has increased by 35,000 over the past three years. (Editorial abstract -- Jan. 7, 2012) (By Y.F. Low)