Analysis | New policy could pitch foreigners against Taiwanese

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TAIPEI (The China Post) — The National Development Council (NDC) said Tuesday it is considering removing the two-year work experience threshold for new foreign university graduates who want to work in Taiwan.

With global economies crashing left and right, however, local people may fear the government will overlook the young graduates who are already in need of help and opportunities in a bid to attract foreign talents.

More importantly, Taiwan is not the only economy in the region trying to attract foreigners. Japan’s ruling party also eyes foreign workers to boost its financial sector, meaning that Taiwan might have to offer higher salaries to foreigners too.

The problem is that the government should work harder in increasing the wages of young Taiwanese graduates in the first place to ensure that the Taiwan workforce is not split between those who have a good salary (a few) and those who don’t (the majority).

NDC deputy head Kao Shien-quey (高仙桂) said current regulations require employers who wish to employ foreigners need to make sure they are  “a university graduate with two-year work experience” with “a monthly salary of NT$47,971.”

So far, a young foreign talent who graduates from overseas universities, such as Ivy League schools in the United States, cannot work in Taiwan.

The threshold has long been criticized because it is not easy for new university graduates to have two years of work experience, so foreign nationals who just received a bachelor’s degree are effectively ineligible to apply for a job in Taiwan.

Kao said the NDC is also considering making it easier for foreign talent to obtain permanent resident status as another way of making Taiwan more attractive.

Under the current law, foreign professionals have to reside in Taiwan for more than 183 days a year, five years in a row, before being considered for permanent resident status.

Kao said Taiwan should learn from other countries that are more flexible in granting permanent resident status, citing Japan, which uses a scale to evaluate a combination of factors, such as education, age and work experience to reduce the waiting period.

Kao said the NDC is also mulling allowing foreign talent to use their stay in Taiwan to pursue a master’s degree or Ph.D. to fulfill part of the requirement to obtain a permanent resident permit.

In addition, Kao said the NDC is planning to allow foreign teachers to teach subjects other than languages at senior high school and lower levels, to help Taiwan achieve its goal of becoming a bilingual nation.

Currently, foreign teachers are only allowed to teach a foreign language at senior high schools or lower levels.

Any changes will only be introduced after detailed discussions with labor groups and academics, Kao added.