IMPRECISE:Professor Lee Chien-hung said that government statistics are based on data from employers, who are likely to overstate wages and understate working hours
By Abraham Gerber / Staff reporter
New minimum wage legislation to protect nontraditional workers is necessary to combat the rise of low-paying service jobs, the Taiwan Labor Front said yesterday as it announced the nation’s worst-performing industries in several labor benefits.
Taiwan Labor Front Research Center for the Working Poor director Hung Ching-shu (洪敬舒) said that based on statistics provided by the National Audit Office, the “other” category of the nation’s educational sector provided the lowest average monthly wages, with workers earning only NT$24,302, compared with the national average of NT$48,490.
Hair stylists and trash collectors also earned less than NT$30,000 per month on average, as did people employed by buildings for security and cleaning.
The service sector’s dominance in rankings of low-paying work reflects the broader problems of stagnating wages and a rising number of low-paying jobs, Chinese Culture University Department of Labor Relations associate professor Lee Chien-hung (李健鴻) said, adding that the service sector now contributes roughly 70 percent of jobs with monthly salaries of less than NT$20,000.
“The main reason is that most of Taiwan’s service industries are labor-intensive, with little added value, so many employers try to cut labor costs to reduce the pressure they face, either through low salaries or by employing substantial numbers of nontraditional workers,” he said.
Government statistics put the number of part-time, temporary and “leased” workers nationwide at roughly 700,000, he said, adding that the official definition of a nontraditional worker underestimated figures by ignoring categories such as contractors.
As government statistics are based on data self-reported by employers, they likely overstate salaries and understate both working hours and the number of nontraditional workers employed, he said, calling for the passage of minimum wage legislation to protect the rights nontraditional workers to ensure they receive benefits proportional to full-time employees.
The nation’s rising income inequality was another factor linked to the increasing number of low-income workers, Lee said, adding that the nation’s median monthly income is only roughly NT$31,100, more than NT$17,000 below the national average because of a distortion caused by small numbers of high earners.
“The current situation is seriously imbalanced,” Taiwan Labor Front secretary-general Son Yu-liam (孫友聯) said, adding that more than 75 percent of workers nationwide earn less than the national average income.
The group also found that security guards on average work the longest hours of any profession, surpassing the national average of 175 hours per month by more than 25 percent, with public bus drivers, hair stylists and people employed in the textile and rubber products industries also working substantially greater monthly hours.
Differences in salaries between pilots and flight attendants resulted in the airline industry having the greatest gender pay gap in the nation, with an overall average salary difference of more than NT$55,000, more than six times the national average.
Port workers saw the greatest increase in working hours and declines in pay since 2011, while the construction industry led in the percentage of nontraditional employees.