Employment Outlook: Taiwan
by Mary Anne Thompson
A world IT leader, Taiwan boasts low unemployment, a healthy economy and job opportunities across many sectors, including finance, construction and manufacturing, according to Mary Anne Thompson, President and Founder of Going Global.
Officially The Republic of China, but also known as Chinese Taipei in the international community, Taiwan has prospered since its establishment in 1949 and became one of East Asia's stronger economies. In spite of its small population of only 23 million, Taiwan is a thriving democracy with a robust market economy.
Taiwan has one of the highest per capita Gross Domestic Products (GDPs) and household disposable incomes in Asia. The island typically boasts a large trade surplus, and its foreign reserves are the fourth highest in the world. Last year, Taiwan’s GDP grew by more than 4 percent to 885.3 billion USD. Its per capita GDP reached 37,900 USD. However, this year’s GDP growth will likely be slower because of softening global demand.
Taiwan’s exports -- led by electronics, machinery and petrochemicals -- have been the major drivers of its economic development. However, the country’s dependence on exports exposes its economy to fluctuations in world demand, according to the US Commercial Service. This year, although exports to East Asia’s emerging markets -- particularly of locally-made information and communication technology (ICT) items -- will continue to increase, exports to advanced economies are likely to remain flat.
Dominated by small- and medium-size businesses, Taiwan is the world’s leading manufacturer of semiconductors and laptop computers. Its manufacturing, IT and technology sectors remain traditionally strong, according to executive recruiting firm Robert Walters.
Much of the real action in the global IT industry now happens in Taiwan, according to South Korea’s SERI Quarterly. Taiwanese firms now handle much of the research and design for popular IT products. Cooperation with China and networking with IT companies in Silicon Valley will help Taiwan’s IT industry continue to grow.
One indicator of Taiwan’s strengths comes from the most recent Global Information Technology Report, which places the island among the wealthiest, most innovative and most digitized nations in the world. IT has been at the core of Taiwan’s economic success, as the country became a major manufacturer of electronics and high tech products and later an innovation hub, with the government playing an instrumental role in the transformation. Taiwan’s manufacturing of computing and consumer electronics and mobile broadband technologies could contribute 11.6 billion to the country’s economy by 2015, equivalent to 1.8 percent of its GDP, according to the report.
The most recent Asia Business Sentiment Survey by Thomson Reuters and the international business school INSEAD found Taiwanese companies are markedly less optimistic than in the recent past. However, sentiments have moved from quite positive to neutral – not negative. And most respondents saw economic uncertainty as the biggest risk to their outlook. Rising costs were less of a concern.
Taiwan’s labor force of 11.2 million works largely in services and industry. Unemployment remained at a low 4.4 percent last year. Only about 1 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Taiwan's total fertility rate of just over one child per woman is among the lowest in the world, raising the prospect of future labor shortages, falling domestic demand and declining tax revenues. Taiwan's population is aging quickly, with the number of people over 65 accounting for 10.9 percent of the island's total population as of 2011.
Taiwan's diplomatic isolation, low birth rate and rapidly aging population are major long-term challenges.
Economic Issues: Taiwan faces many of the same economic issues as other developed economies. As labor-intensive industries have relocated to countries with low-cost labor, Taiwan's future development will rely on further transformation to a high technology and service-oriented economy, and carving out its niche in the global supply chain. Taiwan's economy has become increasingly linked with China’s.
Political: The dominant political issues continue to be the relationship between Taiwan and China -- specifically the question of Taiwan's eventual status -- as well as domestic political and economic reform.
Areas of Job Promise
In spite of the current global economic uncertainties, the latest research by global human resources firm ManpowerGroup shows Taiwan’s employment prospects continue to improve. The Taiwanese labor market is one of the most prosperous in the region. The strong hiring forecast in the services sector comes mainly from the thriving tourist industry, driven by affluent travelers from Mainland China.
In the manufacturing sector, companies are increasing their total workforce. For example, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd. (TSMC), the world's largest dedicated independent semiconductor foundry, will soon hire 2,000 employees. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the world’s largest contract electronics maker, is building factories in the central and southern Science Parks and planning to hire more workers, according to Terence Liu, country manager of ManpowerGroup Taiwan.
“Despite ongoing turmoil in the global marketplace, declining export demand and reduced private consumption expenditure, the opportunities for Taiwan’s jobseekers are still expected to be bright,” said Liu.
Employers in the services sector report the strongest hiring plans, with more than half of all employers surveyed planning to add to their workforce in the near term. The hiring pace is also expected to be robust in the finance, insurance, real estate, manufacturing, and mining and construction sectors. However, employers in transportation and utilities report the least optimistic intentions although the outlook is still shows active hiring plans.
Net Employment Outlook by the Numbers:
- 44 percent of employers in Taiwan expect to increase staff.
- 4 percent plan to decrease staff.
- 50 percent anticipate no changes.
||Percentage Expecting to Increase Staff
| Finance, real estate and insurance
| Mining and construction
| Wholesale and retail trade
| Transportation and utilities
Taiwan currently has a labor shortage at rates not seen in 13 years, according to recruiter Pacific Bridge. This shortage is mostly seen in the industrial and service sectors. There are more than 230,000 job openings, a 44 percent increase from just two years ago. Companies are struggling to recruit qualified employees. Those sentiments are echoed in the most recent Manpower Global Talent Shortage report, which reveals that almost half of Taiwanese employers are having difficulty filling open positions.
Skills in Greatest Demand
The Hardest Jobs to Fill: Sales representative positions continue to be the most difficult to fill jobs in Taiwan. This is due in part to the continued expansion of multinational brands in the region, which require sales talent to support their growing footprint.
Engineering roles are the second most difficult jobs to fill. Lack of available applicants is the top reason employers give to explain why certain job titles remain so difficult to fill.
Revenue Generators: Executive recruiting firm Robert Walters stresses firms seek to attract professionals who are capable of adding value to their business, and it is likely the number of returning Taiwanese professionals is likely to increase.
Shortage of Soft Skills: Employers in Taiwan say candidates’ lack of soft skills is a major reason for their difficulty in filling job openings. The soft skills most frequently identified as lacking are:
- Interpersonal skills
- Collaboration and teamwork
Additional skills in short supply include:
- Problem solving and decision making
- Professionalism (e.g. personal appearance, punctuality)
- Attention to detail
- Ability to deal with ambiguity/complexity
Hard Skills Needed: A majority of Taiwanese employers say another key reason jobs are difficult to fill is the shortages of candidates with hard skills or technical competencies, including industry qualifications and certifications and language and verbal skills. The lack of hard skills among candidates is particularly problematic for employers seeking IT and engineering talent.
The 10 Most Difficult to Fill Jobs in Taiwan:
- Sales representatives
- Researchers (R&D)
- IT staff
- Accounting and finance staff
- Production operators
- Customer service representatives and customer support
Candidates with Potential Needed: As part of the effort to solve the labor shortages, employers in Taiwan are willing to hire candidates who do not currently have the skills for the role, but show potential to learn and grow. This approach of finding individuals who are a ‘teachable fit’ is relatively common in Taiwan, according to Manpower.
Hiring is likely to increase across all industries, including banking, securities and insurance, according to executive recruiting firm Robert Walters. Hiring is likely to be relatively high in certain segments of banking and financial services.
Consumer, Retail and FMCG: Robert Walters has seen especially notable demand for sales and marketing professionals in the consumer, retail and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sectors, as consumer spending by Chinese tourists in Taiwan continues to increase. Employers will be seeking professionals with both local and international experience, and cross-functional knowledge.
Information Technology: The global consumer electronics businesses have recruited in volume, with highly-skilled technical roles, such as engineers specializing in advanced technology, in high demand in the IT sector.
Banking and Financial Services: Although hiring will remain cautious in banking and financial services as employers watch the global marketplace, recruiting should still remain relatively high in private and retail banking. Banks are seeking candidates with proven track records or strong product knowledge to generate revenue. Successful candidates could receive raises of 20 to 25 percent with every move.
Asset Management: Global executive recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles reported recently asset managers in Taiwan with strong retail distribution capabilities and the right product offerings are performing very well. As asset management firms seek to diversify their distribution channels in Asia to include private banks, insurance firms and high net worth individuals, Heidrick & Struggles expects demand to increase for retail sales professionals with relationships in those channels.
Foreign Workers Sought
Nearly a quarter of employers in Taiwan told Manpower they are prepared to recruit outside their local region to address workforce gaps. Meanwhile, the Taiwanese government has amended its Immigration Act to attract foreign workers and people returning to Taiwan. The visa, work permit, residence certificate and re-entry permit have been simplified, making it easier for foreign professionals to enter Taiwan and to stay longer. In addition, children of Taiwanese professionals abroad may now receive resident permits or permanent stay when they arrive. This change attracts more returnees to Taiwan.
Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL)
Although teaching English abroad is not considered a high-paying profession, TEFL teachers in Taiwan fare relatively well, according to busyteacher.org. The site ranks Taiwan second in pay after Vietnam, though additional benefits are slim: no insurance, no bonus or no paid flights. Salaries range from 3,000 to 4,000 USD per month.
Compared with much of the world Taiwan boasts a healthy and steady economy despite its slowdown in response to world economy fluctuations. An aging population and skills shortages present challenges for Taiwan, but the country’s willingness to embrace more foreign workers may help it fill its increasing job opportunities.
Mary Anne Thompson is the Founder and President of Going Global, Inc. (www.goinglobal.com) a subscription database service that contains career and employment information for more than 80 locations. More than one million users enjoy Going Global’s unique content, which is researched in-country by local career experts and updated annually. She is also an author, lecturer and frequent guest on various media outlets, including NBC and CNN International. Previously, Mary Anne served as an attorney and advisor to President Ronald Reagan in the White House.