China Times: Brain drain is Taiwan's top crisis

2017/04/16 18:11:41
(CNA file photo)

(CNA file photo)

An Academia Sinica report six years ago warned that Taiwan was facing an "unprecedented crisis" relating to the inflow and outflow of professionals, as the country "is already a net exporter of top-notch talent."

In the intervening six years the brain drain problem has only worsened.

Executive Yuan statistics show that in 2015, 724,000 Taiwanese were working abroad -- though many believe that to be an gross underestimate, suggesting that the real figure is closer to 1 million. Some even put the figure working in the greater Shanghai area alone at 1 million.

However, even the official figure in 2015 was more than double that a decade earlier: In 2005, only 340,000 Taiwanese worked overseas.

What is more concerning is that the average age of those working overseas has fallen from above 30 to between 25 and 29, some 60 percent of whom are working in China.

The numbers reveal several unsettling signs: Earlier job seekers who left Taiwan were university professors, medical professionals and IC engineers and designers, most of whom were poached by China, Singapore or Malaysia. Now, more of these professionals are young people who have left Taiwan because of low pay, fewer opportunities and poor future prospects.

What is alarming is that over 70 percent of Taiwanese seeking career development abroad are people with a university or higher education background, and their average age continues to fall.

If our government does not undertake self reflection, examine where policy making has gone wrong -- such as its cross-strait policy, energy policy, industrial policy and environmental and labor policies -- the brain drain is unlikely to stop anytime soon.

Even though the government has begun to relax regulations on attracting foreign professionals, without substantive changes to the aforementioned policies, those efforts are doomed to fail and Taiwan's brain drain will accelerate.

Without a genuine change in direction, Taiwan is set to remain a "net talent exporting country" for the foreseeable future. (Editorial abstract -- April 16, 2017)

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