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President addresses youth concerns on inauguration anniversary

President addresses youth concerns on inauguration anniversary

Taipei, May 20 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou spoke to a young audience Tuesday at a Taichung university, where he marked his sixth anniversary in office by listing off government efforts to reform property prices and the nation's job environment before pledging to do more. In his address at China Medical University, Ma proposed five solutions to deal with the concerns of young Taiwanese: bridging the gap between what is learned in school and what is needed on the job, encouraging young people to start their own businesses, providing affordable housing, pursuing trade liberalization, and allowing young people to have greater participation in policy-making. Many voices in Taiwan have been critical of starting salaries for new graduates as low as NT$22,000 (US$729) a month, paired with a high housing price-to-income ratio of 15, and the government's efforts to remove trade barriers, especially with China, concerns over which sparked a massive student-led occupation of the Legislature in March. "I must admit, there are many anxious young people in Taiwan," Ma said, attributing many concerns to structural problems and others to the process of passing the torch between generations. "Our administration has not ignored these concerns, but we clearly have not done enough to meet expectations and have a responsibility to improve," he said. Regarding the gap between what schools teach and what employers expect from job seekers, Ma said the Ministry of Education has launched an internship program that aims to boost the number of college students with work-based experience from the 50,000 seen last year to 90,000 in 2019. The Ministry of Labor has meanwhile organized professional skill training courses for high school students, undergraduates and the unemployed, he added. On youth entrepreneurship, Ma said the Executive Yuan introduced a NT$17 billion (US$564.08 million) fund in March to encourage young people to found their own businesses. He predicted 2,400 companies will be set up within three years thanks to the program, helping to create 150,000 jobs. As for the important subject of housing, Ma listed a series of preferential residence policies aimed at the young and disadvantaged to go along with an April announcement that both the central government and Taipei City will work to cool down the housing market to "reasonable levels" within two years. Ma said new measures include rental subsidies, affordable social housing for renters, and housing units released at 70 percent of market value. The president meanwhile also emphasized his goal of participation in the regional economy to maintain economic development, calling for a speedy legislative approval of draft bills to establish free economic pilot zones in Taiwan and to oversee agreements with China. His appeal came after the government was kept busy with the recent Sunflower Movement, a series of protests organized by a coalition of students and civic groups from March 18 to April 10 against a trade-in-services pact with China. Following the protests and a 24-day student-led occupation of the Legislature, Ma praised young people's interest in public issues but also reiterated that views should be expressed in ways that comply with the rule of law. To improve communication and boost youth participation in policy after the 24-day Legislature occupation of the Sunflower Movement, Ma said his government will establish a Cabinet-level "youth consulting group" mostly made up of young people aged 35 or younger, along with experts and representatives from civil groups. The youth consulting group is expected to provide suggestions for policies that young people are most interested in, including those concerning education, housing, employment, starting businesses, marriage, international exchanges and volunteer services, Ma said. (By Kelven Huang and Jeffrey Wu)


Updated : 2021-05-09 16:58 GMT+08:00