Taiwan’s Minimum Wage Sucks – Why I’m Concerned

I came to Taiwan over three years ago. since then, I graduated with a Master’s, got jobs that I was interested in, found my partner, and created my own wee life for myself.

Yet, I’m still worried about the future in Taiwan for a few reasons. One big reason that makes me consider my future in Taiwan is wages. I don’t believe wages here are truly livable and as time goes on, Taiwan needs to increase wages to be on par with its neighbours and the world.

Low salaries and low minimum wages

To be frank, wages in Taiwan for locals and foreign nationals suck. Locals are severely underpaid but companies raking in profits, and foreign nationals have not seen an increase in their government mandatory minimum wage. The Ketagalan Media summarized everything up wonderfully in their article on the question of the wage crisis in Taiwan:

If Taiwan’s minimum wage had grown in tandem with the minimum wages of the other countries and remained one of the highest in this group, Taiwan’s minimum wage today would be in the range of between NT$36,500 and NT$48,000, about where Spain and South Korea are today, respectively.


Instead of growing in line with other countries, Taiwan’s minimum wage has stagnated. It hasn’t even been increased to be on par with inflation.

Tsai and minimum wage increases

Sure, Tsai’s government has increased the minimum wage, but sadly this decision is too little, too late. The new wage of NT$23,800 is nowhere near the NT$36,500 to NT48,000 it should be.

It is great that local wages are starting to increase, but there are other issues.

The foreign expert minimum hasn’t increased. As well as that, English teachers are still earning the same NT$600 an hour they were in the very 2000s.

I know what a lot of you are going to say “that’s still a great hourly rate for Taiwan, and foreign experts get paid a lot more than locals.” You’re correct. These wages rock for Taiwan, but they are absolutely not internationally competitive. If Taiwan wants to prevent brain drain, then it needs to:

  1. Increase the local minimum wage to NT$30,000
  2. Increase foreign expert and migrant worker wages to be internationally competitive
  3. Create incentives to make industries invest in innovation
  4. Move as fast as possible away from low-cost models that undervalue wages

I can’t count the number of foreign experts that I know that left Taiwan because they got better offers elsewhere. From China, Japan, Thailand, Europe, and Australia. While Taiwanes companies continue to cut corners and care more about saving than investing, it is leave Taiwan behind in the dust of other countries.

Staying here for Taiwan and not money

I’m really happy with my current wage. My current company has been really good to me. However, I’m not sure how future-proof my wages would be for the future. I’m young enough that experience and interesting projects sound better to me than earning a high wage with boring work.

My hope is that my wages will increase to a state where I can more reasonably save a significant amount of money towards my pension and future investments.

If I was an English teacher, I’d be more concerned. The wage ceiling is more well defined. Added to that, experienced teachers with qualifications that ask for higher rates can be passed off for new teachers in the market. Again, low cost models are a detriment.

Whether you’re a teacher or working in other industries, the likelihood is that you’re here because you like Taiwan, and not for the wages.

Despite what many local Taiwanese think, foreigners are generally here because they enjoy living here, and not because of the wages.

Closing thoughts

I hope by the time I’m hitting my 30s that I won’t need to overly worry about my income and pension, and more on the kind of work I’m doing.

I’d probably still be thinking about the issue of my income if I were in Ireland. The difference would be that I wouldn’t be in a job market that wasn’t overly restrictive to me because of my nationality.

Tomás Swinburne

2 thoughts on “Taiwan’s Minimum Wage Sucks – Why I’m Concerned

  1. I like the articles you write, but this one sounds to be little too biased by your experience from Ireland. If you look at minimum wages in Europe for comparison, and I am not talking about western Europe only, most of the countries don’t even reach the 700 euro of minimum wage that Taiwan has. Plus the income tax is higher, VAT is higher and social security is more expensive in Europe too (By the way, Portugal has exact minimum wage as Taiwan, why is it higher in the graph?). That does not mean it cannot be improved, obviously, just that it’s completely normal to have salaries like this here and also understandable why it is like this. Taiwan is an export economy, not a service economy and that shift needs to happen if you want to stop saving on labor to keep the prices of exported goods down. Without that, it is not sustainable to keep raising minimal wage, and the proof is that many companies already left to China before the trade war just to keep the costs down. Some of them came back now because of the tariffs, but those tariffs are probably not gonna stay in place forever. As for expert workers, I agree that they should be paid better, but the salary definitely shouldn’t be based on whether they are a foreigner or not. It should be based on skills and education, where the person is from should generally not matter. Not sure why you even made that distinction in the article (“Increase foreign expert and migrant worker wages to be internationally competitive”), it should rather be “Increase expert worker wages”. Separating foreign workers and locals makes it sound like we are special and we deserve special treatment. We are here by choice, as you said yourself. Considering teaching, yeah sure, teachers could be paid 600ntd or even more for teaching English, but they would actually have to be experts, meaning licensed teachers with an English language degree/education degree. but that’s not reality, basically anyone who speaks native English can just get the job, even without experience, and sometimes you don’t even have to be a native speaker, just a foreigner. What are they being paid for then? They are clearly not professionals or experts, just expats who happen to speak the language. That’s not being an expert teacher in my book. As for the wage, 600ntd is already exceptional and raising it even higher at this moment would be super greedy. The parents have to pay for those lessons, remember. Where should they get the money for this if they are paid 2-3 times less than the teacher per hour? Just something to think about. Well, that’s it, sorry for the long post, I just though I would chime in with my opinion. No offense intended.

    Liked by 1 person

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