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February, 21, 2017

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Choose life; choose civic conciousness

New labor regulations haphazardly designed as a compromise between labor and capital have become a lightning rod for discontent.

The new year has brought the blow of rising costs, reduced hospital shifts and overall capital flight linked to the regulations. Now, attention has turned to the back and forth exchange between government and industry over so-called "support measures" for the amendments.

The government denied Tuesday that it would heed business lobby "suggestions" to relax existing limits on employee overtime (currently capped at 46 hours a month). Once maligned by labor protesters for cutting public holidays and cozying up to big business, the government has seemingly made an about face and looks ready to play hardball with big business.

We applaud this belated move that represents a smidgen of support for labor after months of closed-door capitulating to business interests by the government.

Much of the workweek issue has been framed to pit consumer, corporations and employees as separate parties in a "lose-lose-lose" scenario.

Corporations, unable to pay for higher production costs, are passing on the prices to consumers. Meanwhile workers' wages have not increased due to the lack of overtime "opportunities."

But such an account is not only misleading, it fails to identify the main culprits that have turned Taiwan's economy into a gulag of long-hours and stagnant wages. As ordinary workers suffer, the cream still goes to those at the top, with Taiwan's two leading convenience store operators posting record profits in 2016.

Much of our economic problems today stem from outdated production regimes that favor reducing costs as a means of securing a profit margin. This mentality is pervasive in almost all industries and is supported in the everyday discourse of the consumer.

It is as if Taiwanese citizens' only role is to be biological life-forms with the sole impulse of moving along the lines of economic rationality and materials that offer more bang for the buck (known more commonly here as "高CP值").

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