NEW YEAR BLIP:Discontented workers coupled with people who lost their jobs to temporary hiring raised the unemployment rate by 0.07 percentage points last month
By Crystal Hsu / Staff reporter
The unemployment rate rose to 3.85 percent last month, ending five consecutive months of decline, as people quit their jobs to look for better positions and firms shed temporary workers following the Lunar New Year holiday season, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said yesterday.
The unemployment figure is likely to edge down again this month in the absence of an economic surprise, due to a stable recovery that has led firms to increase their workforce, the statistics agency said.
“It is common for people unhappy with their jobs to quit after the Lunar New Year holiday,” DGBAS Deputy Director Pan Ning-hsin (潘寧馨) told a media briefing.
If they find new positions, the unemployment rate would drop, Pan said.
Discontented workers coupled with people who lost jobs to temporary hiring raised the unemployment rate by 0.07 percentage points from a month earlier, Pan said.
Compared with a year earlier, the reading fell 0.1 percentage points and stood at 3.83 percent after seasonal adjustments, he said.
There were about 453,000 unemployed people in the nation last month, an increase of 8,000 from a month earlier, the agency’s report showed.
An extra 1,000 people lost their jobs to business downsizing or closures, while the number of first-time jobseekers dropped by 1,000, it said.
By education breakdown, the jobless rate was highest among people who have a university degree or higher at 4.73 percent, followed by college graduates at 4.14 percent, the report said.
The unemployment rate was 3.85 percent for people with a high-school education and 3.03 percent for people who only finished junior high school.
By demographic breakdown, the jobless rate was highest among people aged 15 to 24 at 12.18 percent, followed by those aged between 25 and 29 at 6.71 percent. People aged 45 and older had the lowest unemployment rate of 2.07 percent, the report showed.
In related news, the total average wage including regular pay, bonuses, overtime and other compensation in January was NT$93,144 (US$3,054), the statistics agency said in a separate report.
It is a tradition for companies to distribute bonuses ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday and workers this year had further benefited from monetary compensation for unused leave in line with the new labor law.
Headline take-home wages averaged NT$39,679 in January, representing a 1.37 percent increase from a year earlier, as the nation’s economy improved, the report said.
However, inflation of 2.25 percent during the same period more than wiped out the increase and eroded real regular wages by 0.86 percent, it said.
Premier Lin Chuan gestures during a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.
Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times
Employers would not have had any problems implementing the “one fixed day off and one flexible rest day” policy if they had been complying with the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) all along, Premier Lin Chuan (林全) said yesterday.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus and Nantou County Commissioner Lin Ming-chen (林明溱) on Thursday said that the central government should take responsibility for the public’s complaints about the new labor policy and asked for more “flexibility” for employers.
The policy has significantly increased costs in the ready-mixed concrete industry, while relations between workers and employers have deteriorated, Taiwan Ready-Mixed Concrete Association chairperson Chu Jui-lu (朱瑞爐) said.
“Many businesses might fold this year. We might witness a wave of bankruptcies,” Chu told the Chinese-language Economic Daily News.
Lin said that many businesses have been stoking tensions by mentioning problems related to general management, many of which were not caused by the policy, “but due to that [the businesses] did not closely follow the Labor Standards Act in the past.”
The government’s follow-up to the act’s implementation and its examination of the problems reportedly caused by the policy has shown that the problems mostly arose from lax execution of the labor law prior to its amendment, the premier said, adding that the government would continue to monitor the effects of the policy and communicate with the public.
The Ministry of Labor yesterday announced that the logistics industry will be allowed flexibility when applying Article 30, Paragraph 3 of the act, which stipulates that employers, with prior consent from the relevant unions, can distribute the regular working hours over eight weeks, provided that the regular working time does not exceed eight hours per day and the total number of working hours do not exceed 48 hours per week.
It would collect opinions regarding the measure, it said.
Asked about the proposed relaxation and whether other industries would be given similar flexibility, the premier said he would respect the ministry’s decision.
However, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏) said the government should set “a final tone” instead of using executive orders to relax prohibitions that it established, “which leaves everyone baffled.”
Authorities yesterday conducted searches and detained suspects in several cities and counties in investigations into allegations of vote-buying ahead of elections at regional farmers’ associations, with New Taipei City seeing the most raids.
Officials at the New Taipei City District Prosecutors’ Office said they received a tip-off that a candidate, surnamed Chuang (莊), who is running for the chairmanship of an association in Linkou District (林口), and his relatives, paid NT$200,000 per ballot to eligible voters.
Prosecutor Chen Hsiang-chu (陳香君) led police and investigators as they conducted raids at residences and offices belonging to Chuang and other suspects, detaining a total of 70 people for questioning on suspicion of violating the Farmers Association Act (農會法).
Elections of farmers association’s representatives, governing board and supervisors, who are elected every four years, were held last month across the nation.
The vote-buying allegations are related to the elections of association chairman, secretary-general and other top positions, which in some regions were held last weekend, while the rest are to take place this weekend.
Investigations into alleged vote-buying in Taoyuan’s Yangmei District (楊梅) saw prosecutors carry out searches and summon five suspects for questioning, four of whom won posts in last month’s elections.
All five were released after posting bails between NT$100,000 and NT$50,000.
In Nantou County’s Yuchi Township (魚池), prosecutors questioned 28 suspects this week, of whom eight had allegedly admitted to receiving NT$100,000 each from an association executive, surnamed Liu (劉), who won the chairmanship in last weekend’s election.
Liu and his father, both suspected of bribing voters, were released on Wednesday after posting bail of NT$1 million each, while another suspect was released on NT$500,000 bail.
Another investigation is under way Taitung County’s Guanshan Township (關山), where a governing board member, surnamed Chen (陳), of the local association allegedly paid several voters up to NT$10,000 and took them to a KTV parlor in exchange for their support to a friend of his who is running for the secretary-general.
In related news, judicial officials in Hualien County said they received reports that several candidates had prepared millions of New Taiwan dollars in cash to bribe eligible voters in an election for local fishermen’s associations scheduled to be held this weekend.
Hualien County prosecutors yesterday summoned about a dozen executives and governing board members from a local fishermen’s association for questioning.
Nantou County Commissioner Lin Ming-chen, second right, yesterday criticizes the five-day workweek policy at a news conference held by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus in Taipei.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
Nantou County Commissioner Lin Ming-chen (林明溱) yesterday criticized the amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), saying he was being blamed by business owners for the changes implemented by the central government.
Lin traveled to Taipei to attend a news conference held by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus and criticized the government for “passing the buck” to local governments when it came to dealing with the amendments’ repercussions.
The commissioner said his proposal to stop implementing the “evil law” of “one fixed day off and one flexible rest day,” which he claims has made the public and businesses suffer, was a reflection of what the grassroots wanted.
“The Ministry of Labor has three inspectors in Nantou and they refer any breaches they find to the county government so that it can mete out penalties. Business owners do not blame President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) or Premier Lin Chuan (林全), but me,” Lin Ming-chen said, adding that he has been scolded by factory owners several times and therefore had to stand up to express his “true feelings.”
Many in the manufacturing industry have complained to him that they were afraid of accepting orders for fear of delayed shipments, Lin Ming-chen said.
The tourism industry, with the number of tourists already reduced to one-third of its peak, would suffer even more, he added.
KMT Legislator Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) criticized the new policy for lacking flexibility and called on the Democratic Progressive Party government to launch an amendment process.
KMT legislators Lu Yu-lin (呂玉玲) and Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) said “nobody benefits from the policy” and the government, which forced through the amendments without considering measures to deal with possible disputes, should be held accountable.
Meanwhile, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) said it is “absurd” to see the KMT protest the “one fixed day off and one flexible rest day” policy and accuse it of hurting businesses, as the former ruling party had proposed implementing “two fixed days off” each week and even occupied the Legislative Yuan’s committee podium to promote its proposal.
“The KMT is contradicting what it had stood for and is merely parroting business leaders’ complaints about the new labor law, which shows that the ‘pro-labor’ slogans it championed were purely a political stunt,” the SDP said.
SHARP RIVALRY?A newspaper reported that a unit of Japan’s Sharp Corp is planning to expand production to supply camera lenses to Apple Inc for new iPhones
Staff writer, with CNA
Largan Precision Co (大立光), a smartphone camera lens supplier to Apple Inc, is to award its employees a large annual bonus on the back of the company’s strong bottom line.
A board meeting approved a proposal to issue a total of NT$4.095 billion (US$132.2 million) in annual bonuses to 4,600 employees, meaning each would receive almost NT$900,000 on average.
The decision makes Largan one of the most generous employers in the nation after it posted earnings per share (EPS) of NT$169.40 for last year, the highest of any listed company in Taiwan.
Last month, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, announced it would issue an average of NT$1.07 million in bonuses after posting the company’s highest-ever annual net profit of NT$334.25 billion and record-high sales of NT$947.94 billion for last year.
Largan’s average employee bonus was less than the NT$950,000 last year, as its EPS for last year was less than the NT$180.08 in 2015, but the bonus remains among the highest nationwide at a time when Taiwan is experiencing long-term wage stagnation.
Last year, Largan’s net income fell about 6 percent from a year earlier to NT$22.72 billion on slower global demand.
The company is scheduled to issue employee bonuses in September.
Due to the lower earnings for last year, Largan said compensation paid to its directors and supervisors would fall from NT$3.27 billion last year to NT$3.07 billion this year.
Largan has benefited from its lead over competitors in high-end camera lens production, in particular dual camera lenses.
As more international smartphone brands, including Apple and Chinese vendors, adopt dual camera lenses in their devices, the market widely expects Largan’s profits to improve this year.
A US-based brokerage raised its target price on Largan shares from NT$5,000 to NT$5,700, the highest among foreign brokerages tracking the stock.
On Monday, Largan closed up 3.2 percent at NT$4,650 to remain the most expensive stock on the local market.
However, local media cited the Nikkei Shimbun as reporting yesterday that Largan is likely to be challenged by Japan’s Sharp Corp — in which Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) owns a 66 percent stake — as the Japanese firm’s subsidiary Kantatsu Co is planning to expand smartphone camera lens production capacity in China.
The report said that Kantatsu’s new production lines, which are to be based in Jiangsu Province, are scheduled to start operations next year with the aim of supplying smartphone camera lenses to Apple for new iPhones.
Sharp has raised its stake in Kantatsu from 18 percent to 44 percent since mid-January.
Nearly two-thirds of workers want to set up own businesses: job bank poll
Staff writer with CNA
Almost 70 percent of employees aged 21 to 40 want to set up their own businesses, a survey released yesterday by 1111 Job Bank showed.
The online job bank said that 33.1 percent of employees in the 21-to-30 age bracket said they intend to found their own business, while about 35 percent of those in the 31-to-40 age group are considering such a move.
The survey showed that many employees have been frustrated by persistently low wages and are keen to find a way to beat the income doldrums.
Among respondents in the 21-to-30 age bracket who said they want to have their own business, 67 percent are university graduates, higher than the 62.8 percent for all age groups polled.
1111 Job Bank vice president Daniel Lee (李大華) said that employees, in particular first-time jobseekers, face an unfriendly job market in Taiwan, where low wages persist and promotion opportunities are few.
The poll came after Microbio Co (中天生技) chairman Lu Kung-ming (路孔明) last week said that the average starting salary for new graduates has changed little over the past 35 years, which he said poses a threat to the nation’s development.
A survey released by another online job bank, yes123, last week showed that the average expected starting salary of new college and university graduates stood at NT$31,284 (US$1,012), down NT$254 or 0.8 percent from a similar survey conducted a year earlier.
Over the past three years, the yes123 survey showed that first-time jobseekers did not expect a significant salary increase given a job market that has suffered long-term wage stagnation.
According to the 1111 survey, among workers who want to have their own business, 30 percent said they aim to join a franchise to run a restaurant or food stall, and 22.5 percent said they plan to venture into the beverage business or have their own coffee shop.
The prospective business owners have, on average, about NT$770,000 in funds to build their businesses, with most of the money coming from savings, bank loans and financial support from family members or friends.
The survey, conducted from January to December last year, collected 3,164 valid questionnaires, including 1,046 in the 21-to-30 age group, the job bank said.
Survey of employees dreaming of owning business:
‧ 21 to 30 years old: 33.1 percent.
‧ 31 to 40 years old: 35 percent.
‧ Target business: franchise restaurant or food stall (30 percent); beverage or coffee shop (22.5 percent).
MORTGAGE PAYMENTS:Taipei’s house price-to-income ratio is about 17, so it would take about that many years to pay off a loan with no other expenses
Staff writer with CNA
Minister of the Interior Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮) yesterday encouraged young people to consider renting a home first if they cannot afford to buy, saying that such a choice would allow them to invest more in their quality of life and their children’s education.
Yeh offered the advice in an interview on Yahoo TV Live when asked about the problem of young people being unable to buy homes because of low salaries and high property prices.
Saying that the home ownership rate in Taiwan is about 80 percent, Yeh added that most young couples about to get married take out a mortgage, which could be a heavy financial burden due to low salaries.
Instead, young people should start by renting a home so that they can direct their resources to enhancing their quality of life and their children’s education, he said.
To address high housing prices, the government has been pushing a public housing program that would make available a large number of affordable rental units, particularly to young people, Yeh said.
Taipei’s house price-to-income ratio is estimated at between 15 and 17, meaning that it would take an average income earner about 16 years to pay off a mortgage if they had no other expenses, according to a 2015 report issued last year by a housing and real-estate broker.
The average household in Taipei spends two-thirds of its income on mortgage payments, well above the affordable limit of 30 percent, the report said.