It is graduation season again. This year, new graduates should have more job opportunities than last because the job market has recovered somewhat since the economy emerged from last year’s recession.
However, college graduates may not feel like celebrating, as recent polls suggest new graduates will face competition for jobs from those who left school last year and can look forward to almost the same starting salary as the year before.
The latest 104 Job Bank survey showed that nearly 40 percent of students who left school last year are still out of work. The poll also warned that there is an imbalance between the supply and demand of skilled people in the jobs market.
Earlier this month, a US employment services agency said that Taiwanese employers would continue to face a shortage of talent in the coming quarter.
Manpower Inc’s global employment outlook survey said Taiwanese employers often find that the professional skills students learn at school do not meet their expectations.
Worries that new graduates may have to endure low starting salaries are not groundless. A recent poll by the online human resource Web site Yes123.com showed the average starting pay for new graduates was NT$22,624 a month this year — NT$1,185 lower than their expected salary. However, 104 Job Bank found in its survey that first-time job seekers with a bachelor’s degree average a starting salary of NT$27,652 a month this year, just NT$400 more than last year.
By all accounts, college graduates are now facing the same problem of high unemployment as high school graduates. According to the latest government statistics, the unemployment rate for college graduates was 5.52 percent in April — falling between the 5.04 percent for junior high school graduates and 5.82 percent for senior high school graduates. Overall unemployment was of 5.39 percent that month.
No wonder some prestigious companies in Singapore, Hong Kong and China have reportedly come to Taiwan recently to recruit local talent at job fairs. While Taiwan appears to play a role as an Asian talent pool, young people are being offered relatively low salaries by foreign companies in the region.
It is not surprising, then, that an increasing number of college students have in recent years expressed an interest in becoming models at car shows or product exhibitions — known as showgirls in Taiwan — and a few have even chosen to pursue careers in the entertainment industry, where they think there are better opportunities to generate a decent income and do something interesting.
At a recent graduation ceremony, National Taiwan University (NTU) president Lee Si-chen (李嗣涔) said that he hoped NTU graduates would make a more meaningful contribution to society than a job in show business.
Lee’s remark was well intended but controversial, because there is no absolute standard by which to measure the value of a career plan. However, Lee’s words did draw attention to the fact that not only does there appear to have been a change in the mindset of young people nowadays, but that Taiwan faces a serious youth employment problem — with a persistently high rate of unemployment for college graduates and low starting salaries. The challenges facing new job seekers this year are a problem government policymakers need to address urgently.
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