Scott Sommers’ Taiwan Blog

KMT Labour Policy: A Break with the Past?

Posted in Uncategorized by Scott Sommers on February 12, 2009

The relationship between education policy and labour has historically been very strong in Taiwan. I have posted several times about this connection under the DPP. The DPP as continued earlier policies begun by the KMT that successive generations of Taiwanese need to demonstrate class mobility. While it was fine for grandparents to be farmers and parents to be clerks, the DPP combined a series of labour and educational policies to assure children should emerge as professional workers. It has taken a while for Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九) to replace this policy but it appears he is constructing a very different direction for Taiwan employment and class structure.

Faced with economic difficulties, Ma and his cabinet have taken the unprecedented move of expanding working-class employment for Taiwanese. The February 3 Taipei Times tells us, concerning this policy,

…the Cabinet said it would launch a four-year economic stimulus drive to create 150,000 jobs and cut the unemployment rate to below 4.5 percent this year…Of the new jobs, the Cabinet said between 120,000 and 140,000 would be created through the construction of public infrastructure, while upwards of 20,000 service jobs would be created in the public sector…the government said it would seek the cooperation of private enterprises in cutting the number of foreign workers on their payrolls to open another 30,000 jobs for local workers.

It is difficult to imagine whose going to working on these construction projects given the almost universal rate of university attendance among college-age Taiwanese. Is Ma suggesting market restructuring that will drive college-educated Taiwanese into the construction industry? These policies are so out dated that even KMT legislators such as KMT caucus Deputy Secretary-General Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾), KMT caucus secretary-general, Chang Sho-wen (張碩文), and others have spoken out against them. Needless to say, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) told reporters that the Executive Yuan’s plan would only offer “short term, meaningless jobs.”

Perhaps related to this is today’s discussion of educational vouchers allowing unemployed graduates to continue training. The educational voucher plan is estimated to reduce by about 100,000 the current 549,000 unemployed in Taiwan. Numerically Ma’s plan should work, in that there would still be plenty of Taiwanese left to manage the 140,000 construction jobs they are also creating.

The clear break with past policy direction is stark. It’s the kind of direction taken in the past by previous ROC presidents, such as Chiang Ching-Kuo (蔣經國). It might also be acceptable in the USA or Canada. But the idea of putting college graduates to work in construction is completely out of line with contemporary Taiwanese thinking. This may indicate a break with past policy that Ma will push through as part of his new ideology. After all, the DPP used education and labour to further their stance on Taiwan sovereignty. This may be a well-thought out position of the KMT. It may be part of their move to integrate Taiwan with China by adopting education and labour policy more compatible with practices in the USA. I suspect this is thinking too much. Ma’s administration has already been criticised as adopting methods unsuitable for democratic control. It is more likely that Ma and his KMT cabinet think such policies are perfectly reasonable for today and that Taiwanese will be glad to have any sort of work thrown at them.

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