Since Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office, the Labor Standards Act has undergone two major revisions which have affected working hours, schedules and overtime pay.

Taiwanese workers suffer from low wages, but are things really that bad by the standards of East Asia?

By comparing official statistics from the Taiwanese government (which should be taken with a grain of salt) with data from the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), we can see that Taiwan ranks 6th in the world in terms of total work hours.


Based on the “Prices and Earnings Report” from UBS in 2015, we can compare working hours in different Asian cities. We can see that Taipei is dead average in terms of paid holidays.


Between 2015 and 2016, Taiwan’s total working hours dropped from 2,104 to 2,034. According to Hong Jing-shu (洪敬舒) from the Taiwan Labour Front, this indicates that the labor reforms of last year had some effect.


The impact of the 2007-08 financial crisis can also be seen in these graphs. Hong said that “The impact on normal office workers during this time was not large, but shift work such as nursing was greatly affected.”

Regional monthly salary levels in 2016 show a clear gap: Singapore (US$3,673), South Korea (US$2,952), Japan (US$2,901) all beat out Taiwan (US$1,510).


Taiwan’s monthly salaries have only increased by 173 U.S. dollars in the past decade.

Jeannie Liu, Career Business Leader at consulting firm Mercer said in a press release: “An effective total reward strategy for talent retention should be a top priority for local employers. Differentiating compensation, creating career maps and establishing succession plans should all be looked into for a holistic view. Meanwhile, younger generation expects more flexibility between work and life, therefore, non-monetary strategies such as creating a flexible working environment could help attract and retain talent.”

Mercer claims that this wage stagnation has caused talent to be pulled away to China and Southeast Asia, as well as pushed out of Taiwan’s job market in general.

Luckily, there is an immediate chance to rectify the situation. A survey by ManpowerGroup showed Taiwan is the global leader in terms of hiring expectations for the first quarter of 2018, with the finance sector the most in need of new talent.

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TNL Editor: Morley J Weston