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Talk of the Day -- Taiwan to loosen rules on foreign job seekers

2012/05/01 17:49:58

Labor Minister Wang Ju-hsuan said the government is looking to amend regulations that require foreign professionals seeking jobs in Taiwan to have two years of experience.

Another change to current rules on foreign white-collar workers will be to lower the nearly NT$48,000 minimum wage to "about the same as entry-level salaries for Taiwanese university graduates," according to Wang.

A more drastic labor policy change regarding foreign white collar workers will be to lift all restrictions on graduates from the world's top 100 universities seeking to work in Taiwan.

The government move was prompted, in part, by a Singapore official's recent comments that Taiwan has set a bad example in terms of recruiting foreign talent and retaining local talent.

In a speech at the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum in Singapore in early April, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said his country risked becoming a "Taiwan story" and would lose its competitive edge globally if it closed its doors to talented individuals from overseas.

The deputy prime minister cited a recent survey by the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, which showed that average income for Taiwanese workers has been flat for more than a decade.

Shanmugaratnam said that the talent migration from Taiwan was a result of its "closed-door" policies on foreign workers.

The deputy prime minister said that if corporations were not given the opportunity to establish themselves in Singapore to help create a competitive environment -- and give Singaporeans the best teams to work with -- his city-state would face another "Taiwan story."

Taiwan was stung by the criticism, and Premier Sean Chen ordered his Cabinet to study ways to improve the nation's recruitment policy, such as lowering income taxes for certain professionals, to boost its productivity and economy.

Below are excerpts of major Taiwanese newspapers' reports on the labor minister's response to Chen's call for changing the country's labor policy so that more talented people will be attracted to work on the island.

The United Daily News:

The Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) said an ad hoc committee will discuss issues related to cross-border employment on May 9. If a consensus is reached, the council will immediately begin to revise relevant rules and regulations so that the new measure can be implemented in June or July at the earliest.

Under the current law, foreign white collar workers must have at least two years of work experience before they can be employed in Taiwan, and their basic salary must be at least NT$47,971.

During an interview, Minister Wang Ju-hsuan said the two-year requirement was meant to shorten the period of time employers would need to train their new hires.

Truly talented people, however, will likely have good job prospects after working for two years, meaning there is little likelihood they would want to come to Taiwan to advance their careers, Wang said.

The two-year restriction also applies to overseas Chinese students who have obtained degrees from Taiwan universities but do not have Republic of China (Taiwan) citizenship.

She said the real cause for the brain drain and lack of incentives in attracting foreign talent may lie in insufficient employment opportunities and attractive compensation.

As to how to define "the world's top 100 universities," CLA officials said they will refer to three prominent rankings -- The Times of London's Times Higher Education Supplement, Shanghai's Jiao Tong University, and QS (Quacquarelli Symonds). (May 1, 2012)

China Times:

As the government still restricts Chinese workers' rights to get a job in Taiwan, graduates from China's top universities that are on the world's top-100 list will not be allowed to work here even after the Council of Labor Affairs eases restrictions on overseas workers.

Wang said she was not worried that the new policy will impact the domestic job market, as some people have expressed concern that some Taiwanese employers will try to pay "blue collar wages" to "white collar workers."

She said she was curious how many graduates from the global top 100 higher education institutes would really want to work in Taiwan once the proposed changes to the current policy have been adopted.

"I don't think a graduate from a top university will be willing to work in Taiwan for a monthly salary lower that NT$47,971," Wang said.

The basic salary rule has been criticized for limiting an employer's ability to hire part-time foreign white collar workers who can moonlight elsewhere and do not want to have a full-time job.

But Wang said her council is not the barricade that has been blocking foreign professionals from working in Taiwan.

The real culprit in Taiwan's shortage of talent has been the country's industrial development policy and how much local employers are willing to pay for foreign talent.

Sun You-lien, secretary general of the Taiwan Labor Front, said people will not oppose the CLA's efforts to attract first-rate white collar workers from abroad.

"What we would like to remind the government is: are the graduates not talent who have been trained in Taiwan's top universities?" he said.

Sun added that if Taiwan's own college graduates are not employable, the government should look into why and see if domestic conditions are good enough to keep them here. (May 1, 2012)

(By S.C. Chang)