Minimum wage rise not in danger: Taiwan Premier

Growth first quarter 1.54 % instead of 3.26 %

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The rise in the minimum wage implemented last month will not be endangered by the much-lower-than-expected growth figures during the first quarter, Premier Jiang Yi-huah said Tuesday.
Gross domestic product rose by only 1.54 percent during the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same period last year, less than half the earlier government estimate of 3.26 percent, the Cabinet-level Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics said Tuesday.
The April 1 minimum wage rise to NT$19,047 (US$645) a month was based on the 3.72 percent GDP growth registered during the final quarter of 2012 and on the 3.26 percent forecast for January-March 2013. The formula to only have minimum wage rises in the event of two consecutive quarters with at least 3 percent growth or two consecutive months with unemployment lower than 4 percent was introduced last September by then-Premier Sean Chen.
Jiang said in a statement that unemployment dropped during the first quarter while the number of job openings doubled, showing the economy was on a slow growth course.
The government said it would not go back on its April 1 wage rise because to do so would create a host for problem both for employers and employees. The calculation of social security fees, overtime pay and payments for retired workers would be needlessly complicated if the decision were reversed, the government said.
On the eve of Labor Day, Jiang said workers formed an essential part of Taiwan’s economic force. The Presidential Office said it supported the Cabinet’s decision and hoped economic growth would improve during the current quarter.
The DGBAS blamed the unexpected poor performance of the economy during the first quarter on the continuing problems in the global economy but also on weak domestic consumption.
Officials said a similar situation occurred in other regional economies, including China which failed to reach its estimate of 8.2 percent and instead only delivered 7.7 percent growth for the first quarter.
Taiwan’s exports also fared poorly during the same period, only registering 2.4 percent growth instead of the government estimate of 4.71 percent.
Despite the disappointing results for January-March, the DGBAS said it was still confident the economy would grow by more than 2 percent for the full year of 2013. An official forecast would be released in May, reports said. An earlier prediction put 3.59 percent forward, but economists said that would be a hard target to achieve, even though 3 percent was still a possibility.