Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Taiwan for Expats: Forward Taiwan what should be done

Nature's perfect food

On a discussion group, someone asked why Taiwan had fallen from #8 to #14 in a survey of expats. A friend responded (posted with permission):


In my view, Taiwan's slight drop in the ranking has little or nothing to do with President Tsai.

One reason Taiwan is No, 14 is that six more countries were surveyed for the 2016 report. Two of those countries--Norway and Austria--ranked higher than Taiwan. So Taiwan really only fell six places.

The survey once again shows that Taiwan is great place to live but not a good place to work... (MORE BELOW)


Economics explains why Taiwan fell six places. In 2015, Taiwan ranked 18th for economics. In 2016, Taiwan's economy fell to 24th. Taiwan's already poor scores in wage growth, career progression, and work/life balance all tumbled even further down the rankings.

In 2015, Taiwan ranked 27th for wage growth. In 2016, Taiwan was 37th for wage growth. This reflects the 16 years of wage stagnation that affects both expatriates and Taiwanese.

In 2015, Taiwan ranked 25th for career progression. In 2016, it ranked 30th. This too reflects the experience of many expats in Taiwan whether they are teachers or executives. As a friend of mine once quipped, Taiwan is where careers go to die. 20-30,000 of Taiwan's most educated and talented people are leaving Taiwan each year for better opportunities abroad. Lack of career opportunities and low wages are driving this trend.

In 2015, Taiwan ranked 28th for work/life balance. In 2016 it was 36th. It's surprising that Taiwan isn't even lower given that the average Taiwanese works 2,124 hour per year, which was the fourth highest worldwide. These long work hours affect expats who live in Taiwan because increasingly most expats work at mid or low level professional jobs. Top executives left Taiwan long ago because of high personal income taxes, a surplus of talented Taiwanese executives, and better opportunities in China, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

Experience and Family

So the real question should be why does Taiwan rank so high? That is explained by its high scores for 'Experience''. Expats in 2016 ranked the experience of living in Taiwan 7th in the world! As a long term resident, I certainly agree that Taiwan is a great place to live. The quality of life is high, it is extremely safe, and the health care system is effective and very affordable.

Taiwan also took a solid 15th place as a good place to raise a family.

Forward Taiwan and what should be done

I have been advising and advocating for a immigration reform group Forward Taiwan for the past three years. We find the HSBC survey to be a useful data point and one that could help the Taiwanese government refocus its efforts to attract and retain talent.

Both the Ma and the Tsai administrations are far too focused on economic solutions to increase the low levels of foreign professionals who come to Taiwan. While we certainly welcome measures that will make Taiwan more attractive from an economic perspective, there is much low hanging fruit in the areas of experience and family that the government should attend to first in our view.

For example, finance is a subcategory of experience that Taiwan scores relatively poorly in. This refers to the ease of using banking services, obtaining credit cards, and housing loans for foreigners. The expat community has long complained that it is very difficult to get a credit card in Taiwan even after years of living here and that it is next to impossible to get a housing loan. Taiwan could easily raise it score in this category by passing laws that prohibit credit discrimination based solely on national origin or immigration status.

Taiwan could also probably raise its score in integration (currently 20) by giving foreign residents ID numbers that have the same format as Taiwanese ID numbers. The different formats make it difficult for foreign residents to use many online services such as buying tickets online for Taiwan railways or paying Chunghwa Telecom bills electronically. The international community has been asking for unified ID numbers for years but to no avail.

The integration score could also be raised if Taiwan would eliminate the many discriminatory measures that effect our daily lives such as:

  • lower priority for public kindergartens in New Taipei City,
  • no Gogoro scooter subsidies for foreign residents,
  • no senior fares on public transportation for tax-paying foreign residents who have lived here legally for decades.

While these are mainly minor annoyances that do not really detract from the many joys of living in Taiwan (and there are many others), there are also some more serious ones:

  • no national health insurance for six months for infants born to tax paying foreign residents (Taiwanese babies are of course covered if their parents are resident in Taiwan)
  • discriminatory treatment of retiring foreign university faculty members (lump sum payment, no option for annuity like Taiwanese faculty)
  • Exclusion of single permanent residents from the 'new' portable national pension scheme since 2006
  • No unemployment benefits for foreign residents even though we pay premiums on national labor insurance like everyone else

Taiwan also score high for tolerance (10), but could distinguish itself from other Asian countries and score higher by legalizing same-sex marriage.

Most importantly, Taiwan should offer a path to citizenship for foreign residents that does not involve renouncing our original citizenship. While there are a number of countries that have a single-citizenship policy such as Germany, Singapore, and Japan, Taiwan is the only country that permits its own citizens to enjoy dual citizenship while forcing naturalizing citizens to abandon their original nationality.

If you take a look at the attached analysis, you will see that Taiwan compares very favorably to South Korea (36) and Japan (20). It is just one place lower than Hong Kong. Singapore ranks No. 1 but I think Taiwan would do even better if the survey asked about the openness of society and democratic values.

I am also attaching Forward Taiwan's proposals in Chinese and English for immigration reform in Taiwan. They were drafted in 2014, so the numbers are a bit out of date. I'm pleased to say that a few of the issues have been resolved, but many are still outstanding. They cover residence, work, and citizenship.

If you are interested in these issues, please consider following Forward Taiwan on Facebook.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Matt Stone said...

Don't underestimate the importance of the relatively free press you have in Taiwan.
I lived in Singapore for a number of years. There's certainly a lot to like about the country – however the local media organisations are essentially government mouthpieces.
For example, at first glance, The Straits Times website appears to be far more slick and contemporary than the Taipei Times or China Post. (It's even 'award-winning'.)
However, all its contents have been thoroughly pre-digested, like baby food.

Matt Stone said...

Oh, and as for bloggers...
Did you hear about the guy who was sued by the Prime Minister for $150,000?

Guy said...

Great post. Thank you to the folks at Forward Taiwan for speaking out on these issues and representing our interests. And thank you Michael for keeping us informed.


an angry taiwanese said...

The expat community has long complained that it is very difficult to get a credit card in Taiwan even after years of living here and that it is next to impossible to get a housing loan.

If North Korea Kim could use Mega Bank for money laundering, why should expats in Taiwan have problems of getting a loan or even a plastic card? I guess you don't have the right guanxi(關係). Talk to the Mas!

Anonymous said...

I would like to more about "Forward Taiwan." I am a little suspicious of them because from what I have seen (I can't always view their Facebook page, or decipher the mainly Chinese posts on it), it is hard to tell what their priorities are. Which "expats" ' interests do they serve? Big-noses or overseas Chinese? Businesspeople or teachers or foreign students? (Probably not laborers or caregivers.) Permanent residents or not so permanent? I like the proposals listed above, but wonder which of them are most likely to get buried or bargained away.

Michael Turton said...

They are totally big-nose oriented and oriented towards any, long or short term. I totally support them.

Can't say which proposals would be able to become law.

Anonymous said...

Forward Taiwan was founded in 2013 by prominent Taiwanese businessman Chu Ping (朱平).

Forward Taiwan focuses exclusively on the needs of foreign professionals and has made a comprehensive set of proposals for reform covering residence, employment, nationality, and life in Taiwan.

Forward Taiwan takes no position on the related issues of migrant workers, marriage migrants, and migrants from China. There are already many eloquent Taiwanese public intellectuals and activists working on the needs of the first two groups. Forward Taiwan believes that any immigration from China is a highly political issue that should be decided by the Legislature or, better yet, a referendum.

Forward Taiwan's primary goal is to convince members of the Taiwanese public that immigration reform is in Taiwan's interest. Hence the many posts in Chinese. The vast majority of our followers are also Chinese readers and their support is essential to any substantive change. This is also the reason that we have sought (and received) endorsements from prominent Taiwanese business people and public opinion leaders. Please see a partial list here (scroll down).

Our secondary goal is to keep the international community in Taiwan better informed and this is the reason for the English-language posts.

Please consider reading our proposals and commenting on them on the FB page.

The proposals are available for download (scroll down).

A few of our proposals have already become law and we have worked closely with government agencies on issues such as amateur foreign performances, volunteer work, residence extensions, entrepreneur visas, and the Points System for foreign graduates of Taiwanese universities. Similar proposals have also been made in the Legislature and we will try to explain the many pending bills as time permits.

Anonymous said...

Banks in Taiwan now require that you, if you are an American, fill out a IRS W-9 form if you want to open a savings account here. I was here last year and there was no such requirement. No good can come from this requirement. The long arm of the IRS can grab you in Taiwan now... beware of this if you have an income stateside as well as here in Taiwan.