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September 25, 2017

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Taiwan must address issue of insufficient talent with action

It was funny to see how the minister in charge of making the blueprint for Taiwan's development spelled out matter-of-factly the government's directions for building up the nation's pool of talent this week.

Kuan Chung-ming, who heads the freshly created Cabinet-level National Development Council (NDC), said that over the past few years, government agencies proposed numerous solutions to the problem of talent shortage, but only last year did the government sum them up into three goals: one for cultivating talent, one for recruitment and one for keeping talented people from leaving.

The goals do not seem wrong at all, but they are so obvious and banal that one could not but wonder why the government needed to spend a few years coming to such obvious conclusions.

And during all those years, how many of those proposed solutions were implemented? Probably very few. Probably none of them (if ever any of them have been implemented) have been very effective, or a guru of Taiwan's semiconductor industry wouldn't have complained about a lack of talent in Taiwan.

The NDC minister was actually spelling out the goals in response to complaints and criticisms made by Morris Chang, chairman of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world's biggest contract computer chip maker.

In a public speech about the problems of human resources in Taiwan, Chang noted that local politics are very liberal, but all others — such as policies concerning human resources, technology and capital — have been very conservative.

One of the causes of his grumbling is apparently the ban on semiconductor companies — including TSMC — from constructing and running advanced 12-inch wafer fabs in China. It is a ban on which the government relies to maintain Taiwan's technological competitiveness, but to which companies attribute their loss of competitiveness in the fast growing China market.

The local displays industry has also been faced with a similar situation where they are forbidden by the Taiwan government from building advanced LCD panel plants in China, which is now the biggest TV market of the world.

Chang did not go into detail about those conservative policies, but pinpointed the lack of talent as the major problem underlying Taiwan's economic woes.

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