In the past, middle aged Taiwanese people used to concern themselves with three “high” syndromes – high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high blood fats. Now they face “three new highs” – high job turnover, illness and divorce rates. This continuing trend is only worsening, according to Commonwealth monthly.
The rate of job changes among the old and middle aged has increased 1.3 times in five years. According to statistics from the Labor Commission, the rate among the old and middle aged (45 to 64) has increased every year, except in 2006, with 230,000 people in that demographic switching jobs in 2009.
The mortality rate in Taiwan for this age group has also risen steadily. According to the Department of Health, cancer among the old and middle aged (counted as between 40 and 59) inched close to 200,000 in 2010, a 30 percent increase in five years. In particular, patients suffering from five types of cancer (malignant tumors, endocrine cancer, mental and brain disorders, cardio and circulatory system diseases, and gastrointestinal problems) are on the rise.
The rates of marriage separation and divorce on the island have also risen sharply. In 2000, the rate of separation amounted to 370,000 people among the old and middle aged. The number registered at 830,000 in 2010, increasing more than 2.2 times. Whereas the younger population (between 35 and 44) used to account for the largest rate of divorce, they have now been overtaken by the middle aged group.
Taiwanese companies used to encourage employees to stay with one firm all their lives, with an emphasis on employee loyalty. But given the massive layoffs undertaken by businesses in order to reduce labor costs and benefits (healthcare and pensions), middle aged workers are becoming major lay off casualties.
Last year, Mr. A, 52, a former general manager in China with one of the US’s leading Fortune 500 companies, took early retirement when his company decided to move further inland. With 10 years of experience, he started to look hard for another job, but was unsuccessful after two months of searching. He told Commonwealth, “I never thought of changing a job in middle age before. I am more familiar with the situation in China. Although not resistant to the idea of moving back to Taiwan, I really do not know what to do in a place with which I am no longer familiar.”
High level management, the information technology and financial sectors are two areas with a high rate of middle aged unemployment. Many people find their energy waning as news of illnesses among their circle of friends and family become more commonplace. Gradually they become used to bad health news and internalize their worries of ill health as something that can also be visited upon them as well.
And, in terms of relationships, middle aged Taiwanese people also face more challenges in their marriages than before. Many more wives are asking for a divorce not because of new found love or their husbands’ infidelity, but because they want to make a life for themselves and are putting their interests first. After 20 years of taking care of the kids, who are now grown up, and out of the house, they feel they have done their duty and would like to reserve the next stage of their lives for themselves. Husbands are urged not to take it as a sign of betrayal but rather that their significant others are seeking an affirmation of their own lives.
Similar to the management of a business, middle aged Taiwanese people need to manage their own lives, and be vigilant against the three new highs, Commonwealth concluded.