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Living wage standards can be set locally: Pan

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Ministry of Labor (MOL) yesterday confirmed that the current national minimum wage system is to remain intact, however, Labor Minister Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) said the ministry is considering allowing county and city governments to set their own living wage standards.

Meanwhile in Taipei, Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) expressed his wish for the government to speed up the discussions regarding minimum wage hikes and that there should only be one guideline for minimum wages throughout Taiwan.

The mayor's call came after the MOL's plan to devise different guidelines for the minimum wage based on each geographical district of Taiwan as the cost of living is different in each area.

Experts will be discussing the feasibility of carrying out the said guidelines for each region to gauge the degree of change required to keep up with differences in the cost of living throughout Taiwan, the labor minister said earlier this week.

Hau pointed out that the hourly wage had been raised to NT$133, and minimum monthly wages to NT$22,639 in Taipei starting this May; he said he hoped for the same to be adopted in other areas in Taiwan.

Although the minimum wage is set to be the same throughout the nation, there are differences in various areas, prompting the MOL to devise possible changes according to differences in the cost of living, said Pan.

The MOL stated yesterday that the original wage standards are still being implemented throughout Taiwan and that the government has not changed its stance on the issue; it is merely taking suggestions from various fields to adopt the standards of other countries, which allows each region to implement the minimum wage that befits its standard of living.

The minimum wage is the minimal standard for salaries and the country's economic development. Consumer price index, national income and many other elements should be taken into consideration when the standards are mapped out, said MOL official Liu Chuan-ming. As these factors have all determined the minimum wage in one way or another, the standards should be the same for the whole nation, Liu added.

As for regional differences concerning living expenses, Liu said that the government may list “living wages” for each region depending on its cost of living. Living wages should be higher than minimum wages, said Liu.

Guidelines for the minimum wage remain the same throughout Taiwan for now, which is a condition that many government units have wished to alter, Pan said on Wednesday. The minister cited the differences in Northern and Southern Taiwan, saying that while Northern Taiwan may hope to raise the minimum wage, this wish may not be shared by employers in Southern Taiwan.

The MOL also stated in 2010 that the current workforce in Taiwan is still too small for geographically differing standards for a minimum wage.

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