Number of furloughed workers in Taiwan tops 15,000

TAIPEI (CNA) — The number of furloughed employees in Taiwan topped 15,000 last Friday due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Deputy Labor Minister Liu Shih-hao (劉士豪) said Monday.

As of April 17, 636 companies had unpaid leave programs, while a total of 15,634 workers had agreed to go on furlough, nearly double the number of workers reported to be on furlough as of April 1, according to Liu.

That is the most for any reporting period since the formal unpaid leave system began in 2011 under which companies must reach furlough agreements with workers and pay them at least the minimum wage (currently NT$23,800).

At the peak of the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, before the formal reporting system was put in place, the number of workers on unpaid leave peaked at nearly 239,000 in February 2009.

To support workers on furlough, the Ministry of Labor (MOL) has rolled out a program that offers free training to furloughed workers as well as subsidies to companies that run training programs for their employees, Liu said at a legislative hearing.

A total of 62 companies and 2,086 workers have benefited from this program so far, Liu said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s real gross domestic product (GDP) growth this year can definitely surpass 1.0 percent despite the global coronavirus pandemic, Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民), head of the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS), said Monday.

According to DGBAS predictions, if the pandemic lasts for nine months and the government doesn’t roll out corresponding measures, economic growth will fall by 1.8-2.3 percentage points, leaving growth at 0.4-0.9 percent for the year, Chu said at a legislative hearing.

But government measures taken to help businesses and workers get through the adverse affect of the outbreak should lessen its toll on the economy and help GDP growth reach 1.3-1.8 percent, Chu said.

At the same legislative hearing, Yen Tzung-ta (嚴宗大), deputy governor of the Central Bank, said the pandemic has caused much uncertainty, which has been reflected in predictions of Taiwan’s economic growth.

Recent predictions of Taiwan’s GDP growth have ranged from the 1.8 percent forecast made by the Asian Development Bank to the minus 4.0 percent projected by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with a median of 0.5 percent, Yen said.

Judging from the data he has seen so far, Yen said the global economy will undergo a U-shaped recovery, meaning that the economy will gradually climb out of the current slowdown instead of experiencing a sharp rebound.