Cabinet proposes measures to raise atypical workers' pay

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) The Cabinet on Monday put forward a series of proposals to increase the wages of low-paid workers, including hiking the minimum pay for government employees to NT$30,000 (about US$1,000) per month, encouraging or pressing private firms to follow suit, and raising the statutory hourly wage rate from NT$140 to NT$150.The number of employees who earned less than NT$30,000 per month last year was about 3.051 million, or 34 percent of the employed population, 51.8 percent of whom were young people between 15 and 29 years old, according to a Cabinet report presented by Vice Premier Shih Jun-ji at a press conference.Atypical workers -- those who have no fixed term of employment, including part-time workers, outsourced workers and workers on temporary contracts -- accounted for a large percentage of the low-wage population, the report showed.Last year, there were 805,000 atypical workers in Taiwan, accounting for 7.11 percent of the total working population, which was an increase of 155,000 from 2008, the report showed.As of May last year, the average salary of atypical workers was about NT$22,550, just above Taiwan's statutory minimum monthly wage of NT$22,000, according to statistics from the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS).Of the 3.051 million people earning less than NT$30,000 per month, at least 19,410 were employed at listed companies, and 16,067 at various government agencies, state-owned enterprises or government-funded institutions, the report showed.That meant that nearly 99 percent were employees of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that were not listed on the stock exchange, according the report.Under the Cabinet's proposed "five major policies and 16 measures," the monthly pay to the 16,067 people employed at government or state-run enterprises will be increased to NT$30,000 but it will be done gradually to avoid disrupting the equity of the salary structure, Shih said.Such a move would cost the government an additional NT$962 million annually, he added.Premier Lai Ching-te, who chaired the press conference, said the first wave of pay raises for low-paid government employees is expected to take place next year.In its proposals, the Cabinet also encouraged listed companies to raise their minimum pay to NT$30,000 per month, which it said would cost the firms an estimated NT$964 million annually.Shih said that the government is considering making it mandatory to publicize the low-paid positions offered by listed companies, as a way of pressuring them into sharing their profits with employees by paying a "decent salary."The Cabinet is also proposing a regulation that would disqualify businesses from bidding for government contracts if they have people on their payroll earning less than NT$30,000 per month, he said.Meanwhile, the Cabinet has suggested raising the statutory hourly wage from NT$140 to NT$150 when the Basic Wage Deliberation Committee meets later this year to review minimum wages.A consensus has been reached within the government that the hourly wage rate should be raised to NT$150 but it will be up to the committee to decide, Deputy Labor Minister Shih Keh-her said at the press conference.Raising the hourly wage rate will directly benefit low-paid, part-time workers, he said.According to government statistics, the number of hourly-based workers in Taiwan is estimated at 400,000, with 340,000 earning less than NT$150 per hour.The average monthly earnings of part-time workers in Taiwan is NT$15,442, and 92 percent of them earn less than NT$30,000 per month, government data shows.