In recent years, an increasing number of young Taiwanese people have gone to Singapore to seek work, with almost 6,000 making the move this year alone. This phenomenon is largely driven by the fact that wages in Taiwan have stayed at the level they were 16 years ago, with starting salaries for entry-level workers also remaining in the doldrums. At the same time, demand for service sector workers in Singapore is booming, and in Macau, demand for workers is especially driven by the casino-based economy.
The combination of these two trends has resulted in large numbers of young Taiwanese people working in Southeast Asian countries, with the majority of them working in entry-level positions within the service sector, reported Global Views monthly.
Every day more than 20 young Taiwanese people loaded down with luggage prepare to fly to Southeast Asia to take up new jobs there. Already this year, as many as 5,000 Taiwanese workers have headed for Singapore, about 1,000 have made the move to Macau, and several hundred have relocated to the Philippines. The majority of them are working full time, with about 400 taking up internships.
Elvis Thong, managing director of the Inter Island Group (Singapore), the largest recruiting firm hiring Taiwanese workers for Singapore, told Global Views that his company only recruited 280 Taiwanese workers in 2012, but by September of this year, there were already 700 applications.
According to a recent survey, it is estimated that there are about 70,000 young Taiwanese people willing to work in Singapore, Macau and the Philippines. Global Views reported that in addition to engineers and medical doctors, Southeast Asian countries are seeking to fill entry-level service sector positions.
The listing of jobs that Singapore needs to fill mostly includes restaurant waiters, sales staff, counter clerks, and kitchen assistants. Although these are entry-level positions, they still pay better than similar positions in Taiwan.
“Taiwan’s service sector is one of the best in the world. We Singaporeans have to learn from you,” said Thong, adding that Singaporeans do not like to do service sector jobs. So there is a huge demand for workers from overseas.
Sherry Hsia, general manager of Byte-In Integrated Marketing Corp. in Taiwan, said that the advantage Taiwanese workers have includes their language skills. In addition to Mandarin, many young Taiwanese workers speak good English, as well as Hokkien (a dialect commonly spoken in Taiwan, Fujian province in China, and among ethnic Chinese communities in Southeast Asia). Singapore used to hire a lot of workers from mainland China, but employers have found that Taiwanese workers have a better attitude to work and are more loyal, making Taiwanese recruits more desirable, said Hsia.
Chiu Li-chin, the vice-president of the UNI Profession Group in Taiwan pointed out that young Taiwanese workers are the most driven of all foreign workers. They are keen to learn, and want to prove their capability. They are also demanding, and have a strong self-esteem, unlike other expatriate workers who are only motivated by the desire to make money. “Taiwanese workers are also known for not answering back, even when their bosses scold them,” she said.
According to Global Views, a large number of Taiwanese workers employed overseas will return home, bringing with them an international perspective and new skills. On the other hand, with so many young Taiwanese workers making a good living overseas, many of them may never return to Taiwan. This factor will become all the more visible as young Taiwanese workers, who were expected to drive Taiwan’s economy in the future, remain overseas.