2008-2009

Government silos and high unemployment rate in Taiwan: A special investigation

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In 2008, a subprime mortgage crisis in the United States triggered a global recession. As a part of the global supply chain, Taiwan saw a jump in unemployment rate. According to statistics by the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, Taiwan’s unemployment rose from 4.17% in 2008 to 5.85% in 2009, amounting to 190,000 unemployed persons. This does not include the people who went on a furlough, or unpaid leave. The Control Yuan launched a special investigation to assess the effect of nationwide programs aimed at promoting employment. (Case no. 0980800175)
In the wake of the global financial tsunami, the government launched multiple programs aimed at relieving the impact of the crisis on the job market. Altogether, the programs were budgeted at a cost of over 17 billion NT dollars. An opinion poll conducted by the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission on November 23 2009 found “Job hunting and unemployment” as the second biggest problem facing the people in Taiwan. While billions of dollars were set aside for creating job opportunities, the unemployment taskforce at the Executive Yuan never proposed any long-term policies or programs boosting employment rate. Moreover, its management competence was a mere formality. It was evident that the Executive Yuan failed to uphold its role as an overseer of all administrative affairs.
The Council of Labor Affairs (now the Ministry of Labor) was also faulted for its failure to ensure effectiveness of the report system and inability to keep abreast of information of workers receiving severance pay, so as to provide timely unemployment assistance and job opportunities. While the number of unemployed persons in 2009 was calculated to be over 337,000, the number reported to the Council of Labor Affairs was only 179,000. In other words, the employers of the 157,000 or so workers that had been laid off failed to report as required by law. Although the Council issued official letters requesting local authorities to demand employers within their jurisdiction report any dismissal or layoff, the Council did not provide concrete steps for such process. Moreover, the layoff remained underreported by as much as fifty percent, seven year after the Control Yuan proposed corrective measures to the Ministry of Labor in 2002. Although the Council of Labor Affairs was the competent authority overseeing job training, it had no real power to integrate, manage and control the process. Such lack of centralized control resulted in government agencies working in isolation from each other, division of labor, and waste of resources.
According to numbers published by the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, employment for middle age and senior populations was the most affected by the global financial crisis. They were also the two groups to face the greatest difficulties in seeking employment and remain unemployed for the longest period of time. The two groups are the most vulnerable job seekers amidst the recession, for reasons of age, skills, health and even legal barriers. As Taiwan faces an aging society and rapid economic restructuring, the employment of middle age and
senior citizens looks likely to change for the worse.
At the Control Yuan’s request, the Executive Yuan brought together resources and projects from different government offices and launched multiple programs aimed at reinvigorating the economy, attracting private investment and boosting employment.
The Executive Yuan’s employment taskforce proposed a “Comprehensive Employment Promotion and Integration Program”, which, encourages private investment to strengthen industries on the one hand, while increasing employment rate on the other. A number of subsidy, training and education programs were also put in place by the Council of Labor Affairs.