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Taiwan’s labour market has bucked the global trend by remaining relatively resilient to the pandemic shock seen in many countries. Photo: Reuters

Taiwan’s job market outlook gets top marks due to island’s effective control of coronavirus

  • Official data shows Taiwan’s unemployment at 4 per cent in August, barely changed from 3.9 per cent a year prior
  • International staffing agency ManpowerGroup says Taiwan has the best employment outlook among 43 markets around the world

The outlook for Taiwan’s labour market is one of the brightest in the world, given the island’s highly effective efforts to control the coronavirus pandemic, a top labour placement agency has said.

International staffing agency ManpowerGroup this month gave Taiwan the best employment outlook of 43 markets around the world. Its net employment outlook for the fourth quarter grew 11 percentage points from the current quarter, ManpowerGroup said, based on interviews with 1,094 employers. That means 23 per cent of employers intend to add staffing from October through December.

“Compared with other emerging economies in the region, Taiwan’s labour market is relatively resilient due to the low degree of pandemic shock,” said Ma Tieying, an economist with DBS Bank in Singapore. She expects job growth to pick up in the first quarter of 2021.

“Some South and Southeast Asian economies, which suffered serious shock from the pandemic, are also facing the serious pressure of retrenchment and structural changes in their labour markets,” Ma said. “Taiwan’s loss of jobs in the last several months was modest and largely cyclical. Therefore, its labour market is relatively better positioned to recover.”

Now that I have a bit of experience, I don’t think it’s so easy to find a job that meets my expectations
Chuang Yan

Still, challenges to finding a good job remain, as the experience of recent graduate Chuang Yan of Taipei illustrates.

The 25-year-old advertising and publishing specialist has received only four replies to résumés she began sending potential employers in June. One resulted in an interview. She got the replies as companies cut staff and froze hiring due to weak consumer demand and government-ordered business closures to stop the spread of Covid-19.

But she is still looking for work, ideally at a magazine.

“I have higher expectations for myself,” said Chuang, who graduated from a university in Taipei three years ago and then worked as an editor for 15 months. “I don’t know the situation in the overall job market, but when I had just graduated, I wasn’t picky and took anything suitable. Now that I have a bit of experience, I don’t think it’s so easy to find a job that meets my expectations.”

Chuang’s case is an example of what jobseekers are facing in Taiwan, where effective measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 have kept companies open and allowed pillar industries to keep hiring. But the types of openings are more limited than before, as some sectors boom while others crawl.

Taiwan tackled Covid-19 early in the year by inspecting flights from mainland China where the virus originated, tracing the contacts of infected people, and quarantining people at risk of contracting the disease. Taiwan’s Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics reported 4 per cent unemployment in August, barely changed from 3.9 per cent a year prior.

Worldwide, unemployment rates this year will exceed the worst seen during the global financial crisis of more than a decade ago, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said earlier this month.

Disease-control measures and government-budget increases are adding transport and environmental projects, boosting construction jobs, a ManpowerGroup spokesperson said. Jobs are also shaping up in leisure and hospitality, the spokesperson said, because Taiwanese are travelling en masse domestically this year, thanks in part to government-issued hotel vouchers.

On the leisure side, Starbucks plans to increase hiring in Taiwan by 10 per cent in the next two quarters, the American coffeehouse chain said in a statement. Staffing was “sustained” during the pandemic, the statement said, and “the fourth and first quarters every year are traditionally our peak period”.

The global demand for Taiwan’s IT products is surging, primarily due to shifts in global work habits brought on by the pandemic
Rupert Hammond-Chamber

Employment in Taiwan’s core industry, hi-tech hardware, is expected to thrive in the fourth quarter, too. Computer makers Acer and AsusTek, for instance, saw a rise in global demand for computers this year as large numbers of people worked from home.

“The global demand for Taiwan’s IT products is surging, primarily due to shifts in global work habits brought on by the pandemic,” said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of US-Taiwan Business Council in the United States.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chip maker, expects to hire 8,000 people this year, the company said. Chairman Mark Liu had said in August that the company was having a “good year”. The firm produces chips for Apple and other major brands.

“TSMC’s recruitment is to support the company’s business growth and technology development, and also not just based on short-term cycles in the industry,” the statement says.

Exports from Taiwan rose 13.6 per cent in August to a two-and-a-half-year high of US$45.5 billion. Fourth quarters are normally peak periods for manufacturing in Taiwan, as Western holidays raise demand for Taiwan’s exports, according to economists who follow the market.

DP Smart Technology, a year-old Taiwanese start-up with a current staff of 11, is looking to hire sales and marketing people to help sell its 360-degree cameras in Europe and Japan, CEO Kevin Chiang said, noting that new hires will be “global” to accommodate clients in other countries.

But Taiwanese job-hunters face unusually tough competition from abroad, as applicants eye the island’s relatively robust market and low Covid-19 risks, said Hsieh Wei-cheng, co-founder of the Taiwanese résumé-building service CakeResume. “A lot of foreigners will look at Taiwan because they can’t move now to places like Singapore or Japan,” he said, citing visa controls in countries that normally draw white-collar expatriates.

In addition, smaller foreign employers are moving to Taiwan through subsidiary companies to avoid Covid-19, Hsieh said.

RESET Carbon, a Hong Kong-based environmental impact mitigation firm, with 30 staff members worldwide, expects to hire someone in October to run its new Taiwan office, CEO Liam Salter said. The firm proceeded with the Taiwan office with Covid-19 in mind, but has put off plans for India, where the coronavirus is still widespread, Salter said.

No matter how Covid-19 spreads in the future, Salter said, “we have a higher level of confidence that the [Taiwanese] government is going to be able to manage it”.

Some sectors of the Taiwan economy are still immobile. The inbound tourism industry and international aviation, for example, are waiting for border controls to be relaxed so international tourism can resume.

Ceramics are shaping up as another Covid-19 casualty, said Huang Yu-wen, 24. The ceramic worker expects no response to his résumé postings with employment agencies and plans to open his own shop instead. Consumers see clay mugs, cups and bowls as non-essential items, he lamented.

“The market was shrinking before, and the disease outbreak has accelerated the decline,” Huang said.