Taiwan unemployment hits 16-year high

Reuters, Asia Pulse, 25 May 2001

TAIPEI—Taiwan's unemployment rate hit a 16-year high of 3.96 percent in April, with those out of work reaching 385,000, the cabinet-level Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said on Wednesday.

In an April employment situation report, the DGBAS said that although April registered the seventh consecutive month rise in the unemployment rate, the rate of increase has slowed.

Chen Chin-cheng, an official with the DGBAS said a number of factors contributed to the slowdown. The efforts of industries to modernize and adapt to new market trends and the government's employment measures have had some effect, he said. The lessening impact of plant closures also helped with the jobless situation in April, Chen said.

The number of people serving in the agriculture sector grew, while the number of jobs available in the manufacturing, construction and commercial sectors decreased in April, Chen said. The island's unemployment rate will probably surge to above 4 percent in May, he added.

Taiwan's average unemployment rate for the year is likely to break through 4 percent, if too many graduating students seek jobs in June, July and August, Chen said.

Although the overall unemployment situation has eased in April, there were still 11 counties and cities whose jobless rate climbed above 4 percent in April, with Kaohsiung County's 4.86 percent being the highest, DGBAS statistics showed. The sluggish labor market has forced more and more students to choose to continue to stay in school, instead of entering the job market.

DGBAS statistics showed that the number of students who decided to stay in school grew by 35,000 in April from that of the previous month. Although students continuing their education will help the unemployment figures, the statistics for new job entries will fall.

DGBAS statistics indicated that the island's rate for those entering the workplace fell to a historic low of 56.82 percent in April.

Chen Chu, chairwoman of the cabinet-level Council of Labor Affairs, said that employment service centers around the island will provide 57,000 job opportunities in an NT$810 billion (US$24 billion) economic stimulus plan. She urged unemployed people on the island to register at all employment service centers.