Talent Flow Will Decide Taiwan's Future
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
January 27, 2014
Summary: The business community must become more aware. It must appreciate its
workers. It must raise wages to encourage innovation. It must raise
productivity. Only then can it retain talent. The government must
encourage businesses to cultivate talent, underwite R&D, and
encourage innovation. Business and government must work together. Only
then can they alleviate the brain drain. The government must cultivate
talent. It must have a policy that attracts outside talent. Only then
will Taiwan's economy have any hope.
Full text below:
TSMC Chairman Morris Chang recently delivered a blunt speech. He said Taiwan's economy is being suffocated. It is in chaos. He said this was all due to a shortage of human talent. The lack of talent makes entrepreneural innovation, transformation, and reform a pipe dream. The cultivation of talent takes a generation, or approximately a decade. Opening up Taiwan to foreign talent is the fastest way. He also criticized Taiwan for liberalizing only politics and nothing else.
Morris Chang spoke from the heart. He pointed out a fundamental problem that arose in recent years -- a domestic shortage of talent. The public on Taiwan wants the government to demonstrate strong leadership. But the government lacks the necessary talent. As a result political appointees are mediocre. The government is reduced to constantly fighting fires. It is incapable of reforming itself and moving Taiwan forward.
Taiwan's economic growth is overly reliant on IT industry exports, as well as the cost-based, efficiency-driven foundry export model. In recent years, transnational companies based in the US and Korea have offered strong competition. Companies in Mainland China and other emerging markets are catching up. Taiwan's export competitiveness is rapidly weakening. The only way out is a new, innovation-driven marketing model. But As Morris Chang pointed noted, Taiwan companies lack leaders with sufficient vision and wisdom. They lack mid-level talent able to transform and upgrade companies. Taiwan businesses face harsh competition in the market place, front and rear. Many teeter on the brink of extinction.
That is even more worrisome. Taiwan lacks talent. Even worse, it faces a growing brain drain. According to Academia Sinica and National Science Council estimates, over the past decade talent has bid farewell to Taiwan at the rate of nearly 20,000 a year. These elites are rapidly being lost. According to a survey conducted by an international organization last year, Taiwan will have the world's most serious talent shortage by 2021.
National renewal requires human talent. When talent is missing, and a massive brain drain is in progress, everything else is reduced to empty talk. The shortfall in domestic talent necessitates the long term cultivation of talent. It requires the short term introduction of foreign talent and retention of local talent.
The cultivation of talent is the responsibility of businesses. It is also the responsibility of government.
Morris Chang said that graduation from university is merely the beginning of the learning process. He cited his own experience. He said 99% of his knowledge was acquired after the end of his 24 years of academic studies. Therefore businesses are the real hotbed that fosters innovation. Business owners must view talent as a valuable asset. They must constantly consider personnel issues. They must provide a sound environment that nurtures talent. Only then can they innovate. Only then can development become sustainable.
Take government responsibility. It must correct years of misguided "pro forma" and "academic credentials above all" educational policies. It must address the gap between supply and demand. It must narrow the gap between elementary school and high school graduates. The government must revive vocational education. It must cultivate creative talent for society and industry.
There is already a domestic shortfall in talent. Relying solely on cultivating talent is too slow. It cannot save the day. Admitting overseas talent is a feasible and effective shortcut. Alas, the agencies charged with admitting overseas talent are ultraconservative. They are deeply worried about admitting foreign white-collar workers who might create local unemployment. The result is layer upon layer of restrictions on salaries and other factors, Confronted by such obstacles, industries give up. Admitting talent from the Mainland has more to do with political sensitivitiesy. Current laws and regulations strictly limit admission of Mainland professionals. Very few Mainland professionals are allowe to work on Taiwan.
Admitting Mainland talent onto Taiwan involves two matters: mindset and controls. Take mindset. Morris Chang cited Beijing's experience. In 1978, it decided to implement then leader Deng Xiaoping's reforms. As Deng put it, "The entry of talent should be liberalized. The entry of capital should be liberalized. The entry of technology should be liberalized. Even the system itself should be liberalized." Taiwan faces a talent shortage. If people on Taiwan cannot open their hearts and minds, the problem will only become worse.
Take management. Formal restrictions and measures limit the introduction of foreign talent. This prevents industry from introducing talent. Therefore, future controls must be dramatically changed. Controls after the fact should focus on reviews before the fact. This will expedite matters for industry and prevent fiscal abuse. Take the admission of Mainland talent. We propose designating a "free trade zone" as a test case. Mainland talent would be allowed to work there. If it is successful, it can be gradually expanded.
Retaining local Taiwan talent is another pressing issue. The European Chamber of Commerce said Taiwan's high-end brain drain is due mainly to low salaries. Average salaries on Taiwan trail the three other Asian Tigers. Some industries have salaries no higher than Mainland China's coastal cities. When it comes to high wages, Taiwan lags far behind. More and more people are drawn overseas and to Mainland China.
Salaries on Taiwan are low. The reason is overdependence on the OEM export model, in which "The Mainland is our factory," and in which "Taiwan takes the orders, overseas plants make the product." This results in a disconnect between industry sales and domestic wages and domestic employment. To change this model, we need creative talent. This has become a "chicken or the egg" problem.
The business community must become more aware. It must appreciate its workers. It must raise wages to encourage innovation. It must raise productivity. Only then can it retain talent. The government must encourage businesses to cultivate talent, underwite R&D, and encourage innovation. Business and government must work together. Only then can they alleviate the brain drain. The government must cultivate talent. It must have a policy that attracts outside talent. Only then will Taiwan's economy have any hope.
中國時報 本報訊 2014年01月27日 04:09