Saturday, March 19, 2005

Social Security Comes to Taiwan

On the subject of large lacuna in the Taiwan press' coverage of important topics (I like that word "lacuna" -it sounds like a fish - as in, "a large lacuna was discovered yesterday in the press room of the Taipei Times..."). The administration, it seems, has recently implemented a retirement plan similar to Social Security. Employers now will have to contribute 6% of a worker's salary into a retirement account, similar to Social Security (although American Social Security, of course, doesn't actually have an individual account for each person). At the age of sixty, people will start to get monthly payments, based on a rate at which, if they live past eighty, they will start to get more than they put in. Not a word about this in the papers, and a google search turns up nothing, but it's the hottest topic among my Taiwanese acquaintances (foreign workers are exempt from the law).

A company with sixteen or seventeen workers is therefore adding the equivalent of one worker's salary to the payroll without any added productivity for the company. At my former school, workers will get salary cuts of an amount not yet determined. They will have to sign an agreement to the cut, or else they will be let go. The prevailing opinion is that the government is trying to get their hands on cash in order to pay off the deficit, studying the Americans, who use Social Security this way. Not only does the government get an immediate infusion of cash, but people's "accounts" will accrue interest at the lower rate they would get at a bank, while the government, pooling the money, will get a much higher return, and pocket the difference. I wonder what the political fall-out from this will be? Not too many happy campers among my friends in Free China these days.