Jobless claims soar 30 times

Tuesday, February 3, 2009
The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Job-seekers and those applying for unemployment benefits thronged to government-operated employment service centers around the island yesterday, the first workday after the long Lunar New Year holidays.

The country's 11 vocational assistance and service centers operated by the Council of Labor Affairs had to work overtime to process the applications.

Center officials estimated they had verified a total of 12,850 cases from applicants who are eligible for unemployment payments.

The number represents a jump of almost 30 times the 441 cases approved on the first workday after the long Lunar New Year holidays in 2008.

People meeting eligibility will receive unemployment benefits equal to the amount of their insured wage in the labor insurance program for a period of six months.

CLA officials said the steep rise in applications was caused by a cumulation of cases over the nine-day Lunar New Year holidays.

But they said the new situation also reflected the seriousness of the unemployment problem encountered by the workforce.

In the Taoyuan City center, more than 1,200 unemployed workers submitted applications for government unemployment benefits as of the evening, while over 700 people for assistance in finding jobs.

Over 100 people lined up outside the center before it opened in the morning. Many were workers laid off by a large computer manufacturer just two days before Lunar New Year's Eve.

One of those waiting on line to apply for unemployment benefits was a 41-year-old mother surnamed Lin, who holds a bachelor's degree in tourism.

Lin complained she was laid off without any warning and could not accept being fired, because the only explanation given her by the company was that she was no longer suitable for the position she held.

Noting that many senior workers at the same firm were also laid off, Lin speculated that the company's strategy was to first get rid of high-paid employees under the pretext of operational difficulties amid the recession.

The company then would recruit new workers through the government's employment incentives program, as the government will subsidize the wages of the new hires, she said.

Government agencies should carefully examine the practices of enterprises to prevent such schemes or other instances of foul play, she suggested.

A middle-aged former assistant manager in Taoyuan said he was laid off last December, and he has not received any responses after sending his resume to more than 100 companies via the Internet.

He said he is now willing to take any job, including working on an assembly line.

Similar long queues of job-seekers were also observed Monday at unemployment service centers in Tainan, Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties in southern Taiwan, and Taipei County in the north.

As part of a Cabinet measure to open up more job vacancies and hold the unemployment rate under 4.5%, all city and county governments have publicized job opportunities.

Taipei County announced in the afternoon an additional 935 job vacancies and skills training.

The county government already helped 1,000 people find jobs in January, and is currently cooperating with enterprises to recruit 2,000 people in Phase II of the project.

After giving each of the unemployed workers NT$2,000 in cash before the holidays, the Taoyuan County Government decided yesterday to provide 2,009 jobs for a half-year period.

The County will hire more than 400 middle-aged workers to help improve facilities at scenic spots and deliver meals to senior citizens who live alone.

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