Ludicrous Taipei Times Editorial: "Tackling Low-Entry Salaries," Without Mentioning Unions
Note: In the Taipei Times editorial below, the word "union" is never mentioned as a way of "tackling 'low-entry'(sic.)salaries." 'Courage in innovation' and 'entrepreneurship' are mentioned as remedies, but the boldest retort this editorial can make, to appease its Sunflower entry-level readers, is to rebuke a claim by National Taiwan University vice president Chen Liang-Gee who said that low salaries can be blamed on complacency. Bully for you, Taipei Times!
The Taipei Times editorial board must feel so righteous defending the exploited youth of Taiwan, but they wouldn't dare suggest that young workers unionize at their workplace for higher wages and better working conditions; that would be too radical a suggestion for the neo-liberal mouthpiece of the DPP and further evidence that despite the regime change, Tsai Ying-Wen has no intention of raising the consciousness of youthful workers to the benefits of unionizing any more than the KMT did.
For sure, The Taipei Times blames the KMT "government scheme in 2009 that subsidized businesses to hire graduates at a monthly salary of NT$22,000 to contain the fallout from the global financial crisis," pointing out that the figure is lower than the average entry-level salary of 17 years ago, but they conveniently don't mention that the DPP held the presidency with Chen Shui-Bian for 8 of those 17 years of stagnation. If pushed to explain, they can blame it on the KMT holding the legislative edge just as the Democrats in the U.S. blame Obama's lack of progressive action to tackle under-employment on the Republican majority. It is so convenient for Tweedledum and Tweedledee in a neo-liberal system to perpetually blame each other for their shortcoming: not improving people's standard of living, a standard of living that can only be improved by higher wages, safer working conditions, and shorter work weeks.
The youth of Taiwan has to look to the martyrs of the American labor movement in the early 20th century. Without being bullied by the massacre of workers at Haymarket in 1886, labor unions pushed forward, through cold winter picket lines and bloody strikes attacked by government thugs to win victory after victory and improve work conditions for their children who entered the job market after them. The Sunflower Movement can only blossom if it gets off its fat buds and raises hell with bosses of entry-level family businesses and part-time job offers from the West's latest cost-saving, profit-making sweatshop in the Far East: franchises.
Fighting for union recognition for its young supporters and showing solidarity with struggling workers is the only claim to fame the Sunflower Movement could have, its only possible worthwhile legacy. Without this main ingredient, the New Power Party that bolstered the Democratic Peoples' Party into victory is just a another blackout in power failure and the youth, deluded, drugged out, and addicted to distractions, will only go condemned to repeating past exploitation.
EDITORIAL: Tackling low-entry salaries
What began as a straightforward phrase has become a hot topic among netizens discussing the problem of low wages and future of Taiwan’s young.
National Taiwan University vice president Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) on Friday told a public forum on campus that he would like to see more young people courageously pursue innovation and entrepreneurship. If talented young Taiwanese become complacent about jobs that are paying them only “22K” a month, it would be similar to “degrading yourself” and will “get no help from others,” he said.
The 22K refers to the NT$22,000 that university graduates can expect to earn as a starting salary, a figure lower than it was 17 years ago. It started as a government scheme in 2009 that subsidized businesses to hire graduates at a monthly salary of NT$22,000 to contain the fallout from the global financial crisis, but has since been blamed for low wages among young people.
Chen, who has been named as deputy education minister in president-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration, probably did not anticipate a strong backlash would follow his remarks. Some netizens immediately posted comments on the Professional Technology Temple (PTT) — the nation’s largest academic online bulletin board — saying that he seemed to have the same mind-set as demanding bosses who are only good at pointing fingers at others.
Some said low wages are the result of young people being victims of job exploitation, not self-degradation, while others said someone should be held responsible for problems in the labor market and the competitiveness of college graduates, but definitely not young people.
In a post on Facebook on Saturday, Chen said his “self-degrading” remark was a misstatement. He said that what he really wanted to say was that young people should bravely face challenges while starting their own businesses and he did not mean to blame them for taking low-paying jobs. In many circumstances it is not that young people put less effort into moving up the job market; the problem is our social structure, which requires efforts from other age groups as well, he said.
A slip of the tongue perhaps, but Chen’s remarks have relaunched a social debate over low entry-level salaries, insufficient opportunities for young people and reforming the nation’s economic structure.
Admittedly, some young people do not like to take low-paying and physically demanding work and might need higher levels of training and better skills if they want to compete globally. Some critics have claimed that the problem of low salaries is a reflection of Taiwan’s economic sluggishness and an indication of the nation’s competitiveness.
Deteriorating external demand is likely to hurt not just corporate investment, but also consumer purchases. Concerns have long existed that a significant drop in fixed capital formation — a crucial element of domestic demand — since 2001, compared with between 1990 and 2000, has also negatively affected labor demand, worker productivity and wage growth.
However, achieving a substantial increase in domestic investment is an uphill battle, unless Taiwan can effectively address the issue of brain drain — a growing ratio of overseas production among manufacturers and its relatively low research and development investment.
Since these problems were not created overnight, it will take some time for the incoming Democratic Progressive Party government to work through this complicated set of issues. Before that, young people can continue making demands for reforms and exert pressure on the government.