May furlough figures pass 5,000, highest figure in 2021

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The number of workers on unpaid leave has soared, hitting its highest level so far this year. The latest labor ministry figures show more than 5,000 furloughed workers in the month of May. To support those out of work due to the pandemic, the government has announced an expansion of its job support scheme. Now furloughed staff can apply for up to 24 months of subsidies, up from the previous 12 months.

The shutters are down everywhere you look. Taiwan''s Level 3 restrictions have been a blow to many industries, with food and drink and the service sector bearing the brunt. One masseuse says she was put on unpaid leave on May 15.

Masseuse on unpaid leave
Our boss did communicate with us, telling us about the monthly costs of the business. From wages to rent and other expenses, it came to more than NT$10 million. They told us they couldn''t afford our salaries. It was a real headache. We must be more than 500 or 600 employees on furlough.

The masseuse says that after graduating, she left her hometown of Kaohsiung to look for a job in Taichung. Factoring in rent and living expenses, her salary allowed her to just about break even at the end of the month. Since the start of Level 3 restrictions, businesses where staff and customers are in close contact have been forced to shut down. The masseuse says that after paying rent at the beginning of this month, she has no more money left. She says she doesn''t know how she''ll keep afloat.

Masseuse on unpaid leave
It''s not as if I can switch to another career just like that. I was actually in a company program, training to become a store manager. So I can''t just up and leave. Now I''m facing the uncertainties of being on furlough.

Many others are in a similar predicament. According to data from the Ministry of Labor, May topped the record for the number of furloughed employees. The manufacturing sector had the most furloughed employees, 1,655. It was followed by transportation and warehousing, with 836 workers. Lastly, it was the hospitality and food industry, with 495 people. In total, there were 5,065 furloughed workers across 467 companies.

Huang Wei-then
Ministry of Labor
In the food industry, the hospitality sector and in hotels, there seems to be an upward trend. As things are indeed more tense in this outbreak, that''s something everyone''s concerned about.

As furlough numbers rise, the Ministry of Labor announced on Wednesday that it would double the maximum duration of its furlough subsidies to 24 months. Workers can apply for subsidies of up to NT$10,900 a month. But with the pandemic still raging and industries hurting, workers are bracing for tough times ahead.
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