Economic pressure on young shoulders

by on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 Comments

Mr. Sun from from the Taiwan Labor Front, and Huang Shiyi, a Masters student, share with us their different perspectives on work and marriage in today's society. Though they have different opinions about certain aspects, they both agree that the awful economic conditions of Taiwanese youth today are a big contributor to the slowly declining birth rate, and a reluctance to get married and start a family.



Taiwan Labor Front Secretary General, Sun You Lian

When the Corporation overrides the Nation

“The collapse started a long while back, and it has been a gradual, dynamic process.”  The Taiwan Labor Front Secretary General, Sun You Lian, said that this generation is faced with the problems of increased corporatization, poverty, and a low birth rate amongst others, all of which is leading to its collapse. This is the karma of Taiwan’s developing history. The government should be blamed for its “Neo-liberalist” economic policy, no matter which party is in power.

Since 1980, Neo-liberalism has become a mainstream idea which is valued by all countries. It believes that the less governments intervene in economic affairs the better and that economic power should be handed over to market mechanisms, not considering that the tax cuts could actually damage the same countries that believe in it. “ The government believed that after enterprises grow and gain better profit margins, they will naturally flourish, and subsequently give back to laborers and society as a matter of course.” Sun refuted above argument, “Most of enterprises don’t have conscience. Neo-liberalism only allows big corporations control the government easier, but laborers salaries don’t increase.”

He mentioned that no matter whether the people are informed about it or aware of it, 800,000 Taiwan dollars are still owed by each Taiwan citizen in national debt. Some say that this debt is due to a large social welfare, but he believes the true reason to be tax breaks: the lack of taxes for the corporations in order to encourage investment.

The youth become the “working poor”

“Nowadays, poverty is no longer exclusively for people under the poverty line, it is suffered by the general public. In the past, work is a way to lift oneself out of poverty, but the government’s mistakes have allowed the average young wage to fall to a meager 22K(22,000).” Sun lamented: “Compared to previous generations, even though the youth nowadays have better education opportunities, their career conditions and salaries are getting worse year by year. It’s easy to anticipate they will be poor throughout their whole life.”

“When can these young people of this generation raise their wages from 22.000 to 50.000? While waiting for their salaries to increase, they must face high house and commodity prices. When they reach retirement age, they probably encounter postponed retirement, extremely high insurance fees, and the highest taxes for the lowest payment of the National Pension Insurance, because the national treasury will be running out of funds.”

“A former colleague of the Taiwan Labor Front who graduated from the political science department of National Taiwan Univ. got a salary of 20,000 per month 20 years ago. His elders told him that doesn’t matter for a young man with ideals.” “A pay of 20,000 was considered as a bit of a sacrifice in that time, but 20 years later it is considered the norm”, Sun said with a bitter smile.

Poor and harsh are the words Sun uses to describe the working conditions of youth generation. “Poor because the work is very stressful but the rewards are very few. It is harsh because they can’t afford living costs let alone dare to get married and have children.” The origin of all these crises can be traced back to side effects from the government-made tax breaks, social welfare cuts and reduced salaries. The effect of the poverty in work reflects on the family situation as well, causing a problem that we could call “fertility strike”.

Translated from the Chinese by  Yang Zi-jie
proofread by Daniel Pagan Murphy

Thoughts about marriage and the meaning of family

Huang Shiyi is 33, but has no plans of getting married in the near future. He is unorthodoox in his work as well, snce, amongst other part-time jobs, he is also a tarot reader. In this video, we follow him during a day in his life and learn his opinions about marriage, family, and the reasons behind Taiwanese youth being more reluctant to make a commitment.

Zijie Yang (楊子頡)


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