Thursday, December 27, 2007

Can a Society devoid of Hope honor its Checks?

Can a Society devoid of Hope honor its Checks?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
December 27, 2007

It's the end of the year, and political candidates are rushing from one event to another, partaking of the festive atmosphere. Frank Hsieh took part in a "I Love Taiwan, Happiness Party" with "economic prosperity" as his theme. He issued blank checks to the youth of Taiwan, including: housing for young people, cheap rents, good jobs, and an end to debt slavery. Hsieh said the government should encourage young people to pursue their dreams, not just make money. He said the government must provide an environment that makes young people happy and helps them fulfill their dreams.

This is merely a rehash of the Democratic Progressive Party's campaign slogan from eight years ago: "Dare to hope, follow your dream." The mood now however is considerably different. Some new trends and new terms have appeared. For example, the Directorate General of Budget and Manpower's latest survey makes reference to a "hop hop class," i.e., a work force subject to rapid turnover. According to the Job Bank, nearly a quarter of this year's college graduates have yet to find work and have joined the ranks of the unemployed. Among those who found jobs, 48% have already quit. According to the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics' latest survey, the number of people employed part time this year has reached 252,000, a record high.

Young people who attend raves are modern Taiwan's "lost generation." Surveys conducted by employment agencies found that as many as 23% of college graduates have yet to find jobs five months after graduation. Their pay was low -- an average of 23,000 NT. Even those with Master's degrees earned only 34,000 NT. Low wages were among the principle factors behind high turnover among younger employees. The Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics found that the number of part time workers has soared. This is a new phenomenon that took place over the past two years. From only 100,000 part time workers in 2005, a sharp recession last year created 200,000 part time workers this year, a new high. The quality of the workplace is declining. Taiwan has the world's longest work hours. Over the past five years, the average hourly wage has experienced zero growth. Even though the minimum wage was increased to 95 NT, hourly workers worry that corporate managers will reduce their manpower demands.

Scholars have expressed concern about the workplace. It is not merely the economy that is in decline, but an entire generation's confidence in the future. Such low salaries in today's inflationary environment are sure to make life hard. Young people no longer have confidence in the future. Worse, if young people do not find suitable jobs within a short time, they can easily become frustrated from long-term unemployment, sink into poverty, and begin abusing drugs. They may even commit crimes or end their own lives. These warnings come not from ivory tower academics, but from the school of hard knocks.

After Japan's bubble economy burst, the negative impact expanded from the economic to the social. The incidence of suicide, unemployment, part time work, job shopping, and domestic violence, all soared. Students abandoned their studies and after graduation became "single parasites." Japanese sociologist Masahiro Yamada's disturbing treatise, "A Society devoid of Hope" described young people's sense of sheer futility, the feeling that "No matter how hard you try, the cards are stacked against you." Isn't the same thing happening now on Taiwan? According to a study by the Academia Sinica, Taiwan's society has changed over the past 20 years, and not for the better. The public now believes that "Unless one is extraordinarily lucky, one is unlikely to be promoted and to become wealthy." The public now believes people no longer trust each other, no longer feel they are in control of their own destinies, and no longer feel that society supports them. In Japan, the collapse of a once dependable education and employment track led to "A Society devoid of Hope." The same pattern is appearing on Taiwan with the younger generation.

Frank Hsieh has written a blank check promising "Jobs and Homes for Youth," targeting today's "low income, no income, single parasite" class. Hsieh has promised a pie in the sky. But these problem cannot be addressed by reversing cause and effect. They can only be addressed by issuing the right prescription for the ailment. The question is which regime was responsible for the "low income, no income, single parasite" phenomenon? Presidential candidates' promises of economic prosperity cannot be fulfilled overnight. The question is who can lead Taiwan out of its current status as a "Society devoid of Hope?"

希望落差社會如何兌現幸福經濟支票?
【聯合報╱社論】
2007.12.27 03:21 am

歲末充滿節慶氣氛,連候選人也趕場湊趣。謝長廷日前參加了一場「我愛台灣、幸福PARTY」晚會,以「幸福經濟」的主題向台灣青年開出支票,包括:年輕人有房子住,租到便宜房子,人人有工作,不要成為債務奴隸。謝長廷說,政府應該鼓勵年輕人追求夢想,不應該只鼓勵拚命賺錢;政府有責任提供快樂的環境給年輕人,幫年輕人圓夢。

這是民進黨過去總統大選的「希望相隨,有夢最美」口號的翻版。不過,與此相對照的社會氣氛卻大不相同。台灣就業市場最近出現了一些新趨勢與新名詞,都是根據主計處和人力調查相關資料而來。例如「跳跳族」,是指工作更換頻繁的族群;根據人力銀行業者最新調查,今年的應屆畢業生有將近四分之一至今未找到工作,淪為失業族,有正職工作者也有四成八離職求去。另外則是主計處最新調查顯示:今年「非典型就業」的部分時間工作者人數高達二十五萬兩千人,創歷年新高。

狂歡派對主角的年輕人,可能也是當今台灣最感徬徨的一個世代。人力資源業者針對畢業五個月的應屆畢業生進行的問卷調查發現,不僅二成三到現在仍未找到工作;即使找到工作,薪資也偏低,大學學歷平均只有二萬三千元,碩士學歷三萬四千元;低薪資成為青年工作不穩定的原因之一。此外,主計處調查所發現的部分工時工作者人數飆升,則是近兩年的現象。九十四年只有十萬人左右,但景氣急凍,去年即超過二十萬人,今年再創新高,而職場品質卻越來越差。台灣是世界工時最長的國家,近五年的平均時薪幾乎零成長;但即使最低時薪調整為九十五元,計時工卻反而擔心企業主將減少聘用人力。

學者對這些職場現象表示憂心,因為向下沈淪的不但是經濟景氣,也是一整個世代的前途與信心。以如此低的薪資水準,在現今物價飛漲的環境中,勢必生活辛苦,造成青年對前途和未來愈來愈沒信心。更糟糕的是,年輕人萬一短時間內找不到適合的工作,很容易因挫敗淪為長期失業者,陷入貧窮、濫用藥,甚至犯罪、自殺等惡性循環中。這不是出自象牙塔的危言聳聽,而是前車之鑑的嚴厲教訓。

日本自泡沫經濟發生之後,負面影響從經濟面擴展到社會結構面;自殺人數、失業族、打工族和約聘人員、乃至家庭暴力的個案,都同步遽增。在青少年層次,則出現了放棄學習的學生,和大學畢業後的「單身寄生族」。日本社會學家山田昌弘轟動一時的「希望格差社會」,就在描述年輕人之間這種「失去希望,也就是認為即使努力也不會有回報」的心理現象。隔海與此間看似無關的情景,如今是否也在台灣滋長?採用中研院二十年來調查台灣社會變遷的資料所進行的研究顯示,民眾對於「除非碰上好運,一個人很難升官發財」、「人與人之間再也沒有可靠而值得信任的關係了」等問卷題目的回答,呈現出民眾對自己人生的「控制感」和感受的「社會支持度」越來越低的趨勢。在日本因原先穩定的升學、就業管道搖搖欲墜所造成的「希望格差社會」,在台灣是否也複製產生了具有嚴重「希望落差感」的青年世代?

謝長廷在此時所開出的「青年有工作,有房住」的支票,應是針對時下青年「薪資低,沒工作,寄生族」等現象所提出,儼然是畫餅充飢。因為,問題不能倒果為因,而是該如何對症下藥;「青年有工作,有房住」不是能即期兌現的支票,反而應追問「薪資低,沒工作,寄生族」等現象是誰人執政所種下的果。總統候選人承諾的「幸福經濟」顯非一蹴可幾,誰能帶領台灣走出「希望落差社會」的困境?

1 comment:

Zyzyx said...

Hi Bevin, could you please replace ROC with China in your future publications? Like Taipei, Taiwan, China? Thanks! It is the same for us, but not the same for others...