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Taiwan: If You Lost Your Job…

Worker

Photo of Jian Yi-hao

What would you feel if you are fired,  your small business goes bankrupt, or you simply cannot find any way to make a living?

In this most disastrous moment of economic downturn, many Taiwanese are losing their jobs and helplessly waiting for for all the dreadful news to stop. Some begin to blame themselves for being unemployed. Business Weekly (商業週刊), one of Taiwan's most popular mainstream financial magazine shows this trend:

在台灣,就業市場也極嚴峻。勞委會估計,今年上半年,至少有九萬個正職工作消失,且今年七月畢業季,失業率將破六%,創歷年新高!

In Taiwan, the job market is extremely difficult. According to the estimation from Council Of Labor Affairs, 90,000 full-time jobs vanished during the first six months in this year, and when the student graduation season comes in July, the unemployment rate will climb up to above 6%, the highest rate ever!

而對失業的恐懼感,甚至比實際的失業率還要高出好幾倍。

However, the fear and anxiety towards unemployment is even several times worse than actual unemployment rate.

根據本刊和雅虎奇摩合作的網路民調顯示,近五成(四六.五%)民眾認為自己一年內可能被裁員。透過交叉分析更發現,就連碩、博士學歷者,也有四成以上認為自己可能被裁;而年齡越高,也越覺得自己會被裁。

According to an online opinion poll by Business Weekly and Yahoo! Kimo, nearly 50% (46.5%) are worried that they might get fired within the year. After cross- analysis, more than 40% of those with master and doctoral degrees also anticipate unemployment. Older people tend to be less secured.

不只如此,這份民調中,有近六成(五九.九%)民眾認為自己一旦被裁員,無法以現有技能在職場上獨立生存。其中,二十三歲到三十歲、三十一歲到四十歲者,認為自己難生存者超過六成。連碩士、博士學歷者,也有四成以上認為自己難生存。

Moreover, in this poll, nearly 60% (59.9%) feel that they won't be able to survive independently in the job market with their existing skills and abilities once they got fired. Within this group of people, more than 60% of those in the age between 23-40 think they are not going to survive in the job market. More than 40% of masters and doctors share the same feeling.

The only solution offered by mainstream media is: be prepared to become a casual laborer and be ready to upgrade one's personal ability. For example, on Commonwealth Magazine: Who can give me a stable job?

全國的中高齡勞工都期待一支真正可以釣魚的魚竿,可以有尊嚴地工作,不必靠救濟金度日。

All middle age workers in this country are expecting to own a fishing rod (to have a competitive skill), to work with dignity, instead of depending on alms.

…and on United Daily News: Increase Personal Value by ACTION

「世界隨時在改變,你的『視界』也要隨之改變。」魏美蓉認為,自我鍛鍊成為「無可取代」的人,厚植個人的可雇用價值,而非技能的獨特性,逐步拉大與別人之間的距離,有朝一日,會找到職場的一片天。

“The world is changing, and your ‘perspective’ has to change too.” Wei Mei-rong thinks that one should self-forge to become “irreplaceable” by building up one's value in the job market, not just acquiring a special skill. Then one can gradually be far ahead of others and some day one will find another chance in job market.

However, to Jiang Yi-hao (江一豪), a worker and social activist, all these so-called solutions are nonsense. Jiang works in a remover company, writes for a left-wing citizen media Coolloud as a citizen reporter and fights for aborigines’ living right as a Han Taiwanese.  In a speech he gave in Tzu Chi University, he argued against these popular nonsense. He carried on the discussion in his blog, “Life is a Fight”:

「有人說:一定要有『靠救濟是一種墮落』的心態,才能讓自己不失業。怨天尤人、把責任都推給別人,不如『活在當下』『先動起來最重要』。」我相信,正是這種說法,才讓台灣勞工陷於今天的一敗塗地。

“Some people say: One has to bear in mind that ‘dependent on relief is a kind of degradation’ so that one will not fall into unemployment. Complaining and passing the buck to others would not help at all, instead, ‘seize the day’ and ‘take action’ is the right attitude”. However, I believe it is this kind of sayings makes Taiwanese workers bite the ground.

「美國華爾街掀起的金融海嘯,已延伸為大失業潮,潮水覆蓋全球,從美洲、歐洲而亞洲,無一倖免。」這句被王發行人拿來為這篇文章破題的話,精確地點出至今讓許多工人失業的罪魁禍首——擁有金融資本的權貴們透過衍生性商品在市場上興風作浪,並在搜刮財富後,將整個泡沫爆裂的代價以大規模的失業,推給無力自保的勞工階層來苦吞這場遊戲的惡果。

“The financial tsunami started from the Wall Street in US, has extended to become a mass current of unemployment. The current rips all over the globe, from America, Europe, to Asia and affects everyone.” This sentence was used by Mr. Wang, the publisher, as the article lead, which precisely pointed out the source of our unemployment problem– it is the magnates holding financial capitals and their derivative products that create the waves in the markets, and after they grabbed away all the fortunes, the bubble burst out. And the cost is the massive unemployment. The working class is forced to swallow the bitter result of this game.

如果引發這次大失業潮的許多不公不義,至今還未被好好地清算;過程中受害最深的工人階層,正因為無法被制度保護而陷於生死邊緣之際,憑什麼要相信「靠救濟是一種墮落」的心態,來確保自己不失業?

Now that all the injustice and unfairness that ignited the explosion of massive unemployment are not yet accounted for, while at the same time, the most deeply hurt working class people can barely survive because they are not protected by the social system, why should we still believe in the preaching that “dependent on relief is a kind of degradation”?

這是什麼道理?!

What kind of reasoning is this?!

然而攤開每天每日的報章,這樣偏廢的言論卻不斷地充斥在大眾的眼耳間。就拿天下、遠見雜誌的樣版企業——台積電來說,光是這個(3)月就備受主流媒體以大量篇幅來款待,不論是蟬連「天下企業公民獎」的大型企業首獎、或是其執行長蔡力行列名巴隆金融週刊(Barron's)年度全球最受敬重的執行長,連因為短期訂單增加取消無薪假,都能成為頭條新聞。但台積電於此同時發生的勞資爭議,卻遲遲無法在主流媒體曝光(註2)。

However, day by day, flipping through every page in newspapers, this kind of bias and stupid statements are everywhere. Take Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company-the model corporation uphold by mainstream media like CommonWealth Magazine and Global Views Magazine(zh) -for example, in this month (March), mainstream media had given them full coverage on insignificant corporate news like how it once again won the first prize of Corporation Citizen Award from Commonwealth Magazine, or it's CEO Cai Li-Xing(蔡力行) was listed in Barron's Magazine's Most Respected CEO of the Year. Even the canceling of the CEO's unpaid annual leave because of short-term order increase became newspapers’ headlines. On the other hand, its labour dispute which happened around the same time went unnoticed in the mainstream media.

台灣的失業工人之所以會獨自走向貧窮、燒炭的命運,很大部分正是因為我們長期把失業當成個別勞工的錯誤與罪過,卻錯失集體面對、思考制度結構嚴重缺損的問題。如何透過這次因權貴階級把玩資本遊戲,而讓無辜勞工承擔痛苦的大失業潮,讓大眾至少能在「失業不只是我的錯」這個共識下,思考並推動妥善處理失業創傷的制度療法,才是一個正確的理絡,絕對不該再走回高唱勞工自我調適、增值的老路上。

The reason why Taiwanese unemployed workers have to face poverty all alone and commit suicide by burning coals is, for the most part, that we always treat unemployment as a individual fault and error, while we fail to collectively reflect upon the serious shortcomings of our social system and structure. We should make it clear that it is the power elites’ capital game that leads to massive unemployment and people's suffering, hence, to reach a public consensus that “I lost my job and it is not just my fault”. Such consensus is the base for the advocacy for a systematic cure that can deal with the pain of unemployment. We should not go back to the old way and believe that the problem can be solved by worker's self adjustment or value adding training.

在那天結束慈濟大學的分享後,有些同學仍意猶未盡地伴著我跟另一位講者提出他們的問題與感想,其中有位同學跟我說著她那同樣作為搬運工人的父親,我記得自己說了下面這段話:「我們工人的每一分錢都是靠著自己血汗,清清白白賺來的,沒有一分是不勞而獲、不義之財。」最後我說,「所以我覺得,當個勞動者是很光榮的一件事。」

After my sharing in Tzu Chi University, some students brought forth their questions and feelings. One of them told me about his hauler father, and I replied to him that “every cent we workers earned are our blood and sweat with conscience. Not a single cent is without effort and righteousness” and in the end I said: “So I think, being a laborer is something to be proud of”.

明明不是我們不夠努力,而是這個社會給予我們的認識與尊重,太少。

It is absolutely wrong to say that we don't work hard enough; it is the society that does not understand our situation and shows no respect to us.

2 comments

  • […] A labor activist in Taiwan criticizes commentaries which blame unemployed individuals while ignoring the shortcomings of the social system: 台灣的失業工人之所以會獨自走向貧窮、燒炭的命運,很大部分正是因為我們長期把失業當成個別勞工的錯誤與罪過,卻錯失集體面對、思考制度結構嚴重缺損的問題。如何透過這次因權貴階級把玩資本遊戲,而讓無辜勞工承擔痛苦的大失業潮,讓大眾至少能在「失業不只是我的錯」這個共識下,思考並推動妥善處理失業創傷的制度療法,才是一個正確的理絡,絕對不該再走回高唱勞工自我調適、增值的老路上。 The reason why Taiwanese unemployed workers have to face poverty alone and commit suicide by burning coals is, for the most part, that we always treat unemployment as a fault and error of individual labour, while we fail to collectively face and reflect upon the serious shortcomings of social system and structure. We should make it clear that it is the power elites' capital game that leads to massive unemployment and people's suffering, hence, to reach a public consensus that “I lost my job and it is not just my fault”. Such consensus is the base for further reflection and advocacy for a systematic cure that can deal with the pain of unemployment. We should not go back to the old way that asks workers to adjust themselves and increase their own value. […]

  • […] can see past reports on Taiwan and labor issues here, here, and here. By the way, foreign housekeepers and carers in Taiwan still have no legal right to labor […]

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