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Taiwanese workers demand fair distribution of income

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12 August, 2019On 12 August, the president of Taiwan Petroleum Workers’ Union (TPWU) Zhuang Jue-An called on the Taiwanese government to increase the monthly minimum wage from NT$23,100 (US$744) to NT$28,862 (US$928), to ensure a fair distribution of income to workers.

Zhuang says that a decade of real wage stagnation is a serious concern for Taiwanese workers – the average real wage growth in the past ten years is zero. The wage of a university graduate is exactly same as the amount ten years ago.

“Companies are reluctant to share profits with workers; the labour share of income per GDP has declined from 51 per cent in 1992, to 44 per cent in 2017. This is in stark contrast to the steady rise of capital share of income,”says Zhuang.

“Other factors keeping wages down is the emergence of more short-term jobs and platform workers, like Uber drivers in Taiwan, and the fact that the number of migrant workers available has doubled in the last 20 years to 700,000,” explains Zhuang.

A sluggish economy contributes to stagnant wage. The GDP growth in Taiwan was 2.53 percent in 2018. In the midst of a US-China trade war that severely impacts the island country’s supply chain, the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research forecasts the 2019 GDP growth to be 2.12 per cent.

The Minimum Wage Review Committee under the Labour Ministry of Taiwan will convene a meeting on 14 August to deliberate adjustment to the minimum wage. Although the Taiwan Central Bank Governor Yang Chin-long has openly urged the government to boost the minimum wage, business leaders have been opposing the idea on the grounds that wage must link to productivity.

As a member of the committee representing trade unions, Zhuang says that the adjustment of the minimum wage should adhere to the key principle of safeguarding a minimum standard of living for workers:

“The productivity-linked wage is a false proposition which fails to understand the essence of minimum wage system.”