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Taiwanese aware of rising ‘brain drain’ risk

Taiwan is reacting to increased pressure to tackle brain drain as more and more young people head overseas for work and study. Over 40,000 students applied for study visas abroad in 2017, according to a recent report from the Ministry of Education.

brain drainA lack of opportunities in Taiwan is leading young people to look for better prospects abroad and China is courting Taiwanese. Photo: Travelphotographer via Pixabay

"Beijing has worked to be the preferred destination for Taiwanese youth over the United States and other Western nations"

The government has put measures in place to making working in Taiwan more attractive and eased post-study work rights for international students heading to the country.

For Taiwanese, the US remains the most popular overseas education destination, although growing numbers are heading to Japan, South Korea and Canada.

But with 11% of the 23.58 million-strong population having worked or studied abroad, Taiwanese youth are increasingly dissatisfied with local opportunities.

A survey (link in Chinese) by the Grassroots Institute Foundation recently found that 50% of young people would be willing to work abroad. Taiwanese youth are also 12% less confident about future job prospects compared to three years ago.

While many head to North America and Oceania for better prospects, China is working hard to try to attract Taiwanese students and graduates as part of its “One China Policy“.

“Beijing has worked to be the preferred destination for Taiwanese youth over the United States and other Western nations,” Thomas Shattuck, research associate at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and editor of Geopoliticus: The FPRI Blog, told The PIE News.

China has offered greater rights for Taiwanese though business opportunities, access to professional training and resident ID cards. The shared language and culture also make it an attractive option.

“However, in 2017 the number of Taiwanese people working in mainland China was on the decline. Growth in the number of students, internship recipients and teachers travelling to the mainland was slight. There are around 3,000 students studying in higher education institutions in China,” Shattuck added.

“There are around 3,000 students studying in higher education institutions in China”

“In response to the 31 Measures [regulations from Beijing offering incentives for Taiwanese to work and live on the mainland], the Tsai government announced its 39 Specific Measures, aimed at providing better opportunities in Taiwan for Taiwanese.

“Another thing that the government has done is to restrict what Taiwanese researchers can do in China.

“Hourly and monthly minimum wages increased, but they are still pretty low if you compare it to other countries. The 2019 increase was this administration’s second one.”

Taiwan’s extremely low birth rate also creates problems in terms of future talent. It was listed last by Oxford Economics out of 46 countries in projected talent supply from 2012-2021.

However, upheavals elsewhere may see the brain drain situation change in the future.

“Recently it has become more complicated than before. More and more people from Hong Kong are moving to Taiwan because of recent developments there,” Yinghuei Chen, dean of the International College and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Asia University, Taiwan, told The PIE News.

“The Taiwan government also realises the dire situation of brain drain. It offers incentives to send young people to the US, Japan, Europe and SE Asia for academic and career development.”

Taiwan also reported record numbers of international students joining its universities and colleges last year and has eased post-study work rights in order for them to fill critical shortages in the workforce.

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