Low birth rate could result in shortage of doctorates: minister
December 6, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
TAIPEI -- Despite an overabundance of doctorate degree holders in Taiwan at present, a shortage is likely within 10 years due to the country's falling birth rate, Science Minister Cyrus Chu warned yesterday.
Over the next 10 years, more than 10,000 professors currently teaching at higher education institutions in Taiwan will be retiring, which will lead to increased demand for Ph.D holders, Chu said during a consultative meeting on science and technology development.
At the same time, the number of doctorate degree holders will be decreasing owing to a serious population decline, he said.
As a result, a shortage of talent in that area is expected to emerge in Taiwan's job market by 2014, he predicted.
He proposed that Taiwan try to attract more foreign students from emerging countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines and create a friendly environment to encourage them to seek employment in Taiwan.
Currently, foreign nationals comprise only 5.22 percent of doctoral students in Taiwan universities, well below Sweden's 50 percent, France's 40 percent and the United States' 29 percent, he noted.
Chu said both Japan and South Korea are working to recruit more foreign students in an effort to enhance the internationalization and innovation capacity of their higher education institutions.
Japan aims to increase its number of foreign students from 120,000 in 2008 to 300,000 by 2020, while South Korea has set a target of 200,000 by 2020, he said.
Chu also called attention to the low percentage of doctorate degree holders employed in Taiwan's business sector, noting that the figure was only 14.49 percent in 2012.
Echoing Chu's concerns, Education Minister Chiang Wei-ling said that on average, only 20 percent of the 3,800 people who obtain Ph.Ds annually in Taiwan enter the business sector.
He urged Taiwanese companies to employ more doctorate degree graduates of domestic universities.
At the meeting, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) Chairman Morris Chang attributed the low employment rate of Taiwan's doctorate degree holders to inadequate R&D investment by Taiwanese companies.
Chang said the situation has created a vicious circle that is hampering the technological upgrade of these companies.
TSMC, however, does not have such a problem because it hires around 50 Ph.D holders and 200 to 300 master's degree holders every year, he said.
Among TSMC's 40,000 employees, some 800 hold doctorate degrees, while 3,000 to 4,000 hold master's degrees, Chang said.
He contended, however, that the problem in Taiwan is not so much the number of Ph.D holders as the fields in which they are trained.
Taiwan's education system needs a “complete overhaul” to fill the talent gap, Chang said.
He said Taiwan does not need to have 148 universities and colleges or 40 research-oriented universities as it does now, but instead requires more technical vocational education institutions.