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Talk of the Day -- Lukewarm response to regional minimum wage idea

2014/05/09 17:38:52

Issues surrounding minimum wage levels have sparked heated debate in Taiwan, including whether to raise the minimum wage on a national level or whether to establish guidelines for differing minimum wages based on region.

Minister of Labor Pan Shih-wei has said that the ministry will keep the national minimum wage system intact and denied reports that it has drafted a plan that would allow counties and cities to set their own minimum wages, although he said they can set different living wage levels based on the cost of living in their respective areas.

The following are excerpts from major local dailies on the minimum wage issues:

China Times:

A living wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet basic needs, according to Pan.

The U.S. federal government mandates a nationwide minimum wage level, while 72 states and municipalities have set minimum living wage levels that are higher than the federal level, Pan said.

The ministry's proposal for region-based minimum wages has drawn flak from the chiefs of several local governments who think such a move could hinder skilled workers from working in southern Taiwan, widening the wealth gap between rural areas in southern Taiwan and urban areas in northern Taiwan.

However, Pan said the measure would not necessarily widen the gap between the south and the north.

Given the relatively low living wage in the south, more companies could be willing to set up factories there, which could help buoy up the local economy, Pan argued.

Noting that the living wage is not mandatory and that implementing the system would not involve a law revision, Pan said the ministry will convene representatives from various sectors of society for meetings to discuss the proposal. (April 9, 2014)

United Daily News:

Two newly installed vice chairmen of the ruling Kuomintang -- Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin and New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu -- both offered suggestions regarding the minimum wage and labor rights policies.

After raising the minimum wage for Taipei city government temporary workers starting this month, Hau also urged the central government to hike the national minimum wage this year.

Chu, meanwhile, put forward the idea of encouraging employers to share profits with their employees by offering the employers preferential tax treatment through tax reforms.

Earlier this year, Chu also proposed giving workers more paid leave.

The Ministry of Labor's draft plan allowing each region to set its own minimum wage was not welcomed by local government chiefs.

Hau said that the country should adopt a unified national standard for the minimum wage, while Chu said the issue requires discussion among representatives of workers, businesses and the government. (April 9, 2014)

Liberty Times:

Pan said that while the government will uphold the national minimum wage policy, it is up to local governments to decide whether to set their own living wage levels.

The heads of the country's five special municipalities have all said that the living wage proposal should be assessed cautiously, with the mayors of Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung, as well as labor groups, publicly expressing opposition to the concept.

Labor groups said the ministry is simply attempting to pass the buck to local governments. (April 9, 2014)

(By Evelyn Kao)