Thursday, November 22, 2007

Taiwan's Brain Drain: A Mortal Wound

Taiwan's Brain Drain: A Mortal Wound
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
November 22, 2007

Our national leaders are in the habit of reminding us that Beijing has a large number of missiles aimed at Taiwan, therefore everybody ought to remain vigilant. This is not entirely wrong. But Taiwan's biggest threat is not necessarily Beijing's missiles. It is a brain drain that has inflicted a mortal wound upon Taiwan's competitiveness.

Taiwan is experiencing a brain drain. White collar workers are in a hurry to leave. This is no longer a phenomenon that can be ignored. Most of them leave for mainland China, primarily due to Taiwan's internal political struggles. Ruling DPP leaders reason that "So what if we revive the economy? That doesn't mean we'll get reelected." Whereupon they continue their ideologically-motivated Closed Door Policy. They allow industry to wither. Young workers can no longer find work, and must leave to survive.

In the past, most countries did not welcome immigrants. They tried to stop them. Now circumstances are different. Now we have Globalization and the Global Village. Now the World is Flat. To be competitive one must have talented people. The countries of the world now compete for the most talented people. They have launched a "Global Talent Hunt." The nations of the world have one by one revised their immigration policies, and are recruiting foreign students from all over the globe. They offer all sorts of enticements to make them come.

The mainland Chinese economy is growingly rapidly, by double digits every year. It is estimated that next year its total output may surpass Germany's. It will become the world's third largest economic entity. Such enormous productivity creates enormous purchasing power. Transnational corporations are all struggling to be the first to profit from a market of 1.3 billion customers. Taiwan's major corporations have been directly or indirectly entering the mainland. Taiwan's economy has stagnated due to internal political strife. Businesses have had no choice but to seek refuge on the mainland. At first they tested the waters. Eventually they stayed to sink roots.

Taiwan businesspersons who move to the mainland take personnel along with them. The mainland desperately needs business managers and financial managers who understand global markets. According to Taiwan's 104 Job Bank, a head-hunting firm, Taiwan businesspersons and mainland businesspersons alike approach them for workers. The Job Bank invariably asks jobseekers a question: "Are you willing to work on the mainland?" Not long ago National Taiwan University's Graduate Institute of Business Administration surveyed 30 students. Forty percent of them said they were willing to work on the mainland

In fact, many white collar managerial and technical personnel have already moved to the mainland. According to estimates by the Taiwanese Businessmen's Association, the Shanghai, Suzhou, and Kunshan regions alone have over 500,000 Taiwan businesspersons. If one adds nearby Guangdong, the number approaches 800,000 to 900,000. Naturally this does not include Taiwan talent recruited by mainland businesses.

Taiwan Media Watch conducted a survey. They asked people why they were willing to work on the mainland. Their answers were illuminating:

One. Rapid salary increases. In some years their salary increased 20% to 30%. Approximately 10% of the increase was due to market growth.

Two. Working on the mainland is a simple way of moving toward internationalization.

Three. Taiwan is no longer a link in the global market. Taiwan businesses have no future. Individuals working for Taiwan businesses have no future either.

Four. Working on the mainland is like participating in the Olympics, One is competing with world class competitors. It is both a personal challenge and a learning opportunity.

Many human resource firms and consulting firms have noted that among the economies of the Asian Pacific region, Taiwan's manpower requirements have been the lowest for five straight years. In October of this year, 100,000 university graduates, including those with masters and doctorates, cannot find work. Therefore the age of those who have gone to the mainland or hope to go to the mainland is getting younger and younger. Now entire families are picking up and moving to the mainland. The children no longer study in foreign schools or bilingual schools. Instead they enroll in local schools. They do so because their future is there. Therefore they feel they must integrate into local society as soon as possible.

Our Ministry of Education recognizes diplomas from third rate universities in the US. But it refuses to recognize diplomas from mainland China's Beijing University, Qinghua University, and other famous schools. As a result, many students from Taiwan who studied and obtained degrees on the mainland, are only able to work on the mainland.

In 1949 Nationalist troops were routed in the Battle of Xu Bang. The government retreated to Taiwan. Acting General Tu Yu-ming was captured by Chen Yi's troops. He was released after "Successful Thought Reform" in a Chinese Communist Party POW camp. On May 26, 1960, he was invited to a banquet held by Premier Zhou Enlai and Vice-Premier Chen Yi in honor of British Field Marshal Montgomery. While introducing Tu Yu-ming, Zhou Enlai said Tu once fought a battle with Chen Yi. Montgomery asked: Who won? Zhou answered: Chen Yi won. Montgomery asked Tu: How many troops did you command during that campaign? Tu answered: One million. Montgomery said: Anyone with a million troops under his command should not have lost. Tu explained: He had two million. Because my one million defected to his side.

This story is not necessarily true. But it is certainly something to think about.

2007.11.22 03:34 am
















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