Wage gap between foreigners and locals -- how to reconcile


#1

More than once I’ve caught Taiwanese grumbling resentfully about how they bust their asses up down and sideways to make NT$20 an hour, while we laowai whine about only making 2 grand. (Yes, the numbers are exaggerations. I hope, still.)

I think we’ve all heard grumblings like this before. How do you react? I usually respond by saying something to the effect of:

“Is it our fault for meeting certain requirements and accepting an offer? Or is it the fault of those who set the requirements (too leniently) and put forth the offers (too generously), to meet the demand of a misguided public? If we hypothetically assume that the latter is true, has it occurred to you that the people guilty of this injustice are Taiwanese?” Besides, even in the highly unlikely event that native English speakers began boycotting Taiwan teaching stints on principle, what would the Taiwanese worker have to gain?"

OK, to take out all the pretentious rhetorical question shite, we’re getting payed as we are because YOU PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO PAY US WHAT WE GET, TO DO WHAT WE DO. So, if you feel it’s not fair, it’s up to YOU to raise the bar and/or lower the paycheck. It’s up to YOU to wake up and realize that the chump your kid sees after school is a burnout clown back in his own country.*

If anyone can offer a good argument against my standpoint, I’d be curious to hear it.

Dave

  • P.S. From what I hear, that’s what’s happened to the TEFL scene in Japan – resentment from locals about a wage gap in the 80s resulted in English teaching gigs there becoming hard to score and low-paying. “Come with a masters degree in your back pocket,” as the old unfunny saying goes.

#2

I don’t get your point. What about the wage gap between Premier League footballers and Division 3 footballer ? What about the wage gap between any two classes of people who are paid at different rates ?

The only possible response is: “The market for your skills will only support a wage of NT$20 an hour, but the market for my skills will support a wage of NT$1000 an hour.”

It is also to do with lack of supply (crazy as it may seem) of English teachers. I could never make GBP25 an hour in Ireland because there are loads of English teachers. And there is much less demand for EFL teaching here than there is in Taiwan. Just supply and demand.


#3

The only way I can think of to push salaries down to even things up with locals (is that what u would like to see Dave?) would be for the government to try to attract tens of thousands more foreign teachers to Taiwan.

Problem is, how many of them would stay here for a ‘fair’ hourly pay of, say, NTD300/hr? Not me.


#4

Skills are different. Taiwanese engineers may be pulling NT$40k a month, while the expat looking after them and training them might be getting 5 times as much.

Attitude towards your work also matters. A taiwanese doing something may be delivering a more shoddy quality than the foreigner does - therefore the wage gap.

Taiwanese employees may get to the office at 8 am and leave at 5:30. The foreigners may be in at 7 am and leave at 8 pm, and be more prodictive in the meantime. Taiwanese complain about the foreigners getting paid too much - but fail to grasp that foreigners in general have a better work etics and work harder.

The foreigners might be better at English, thereby being able to communicate more timely with clients abroad.

Tons of explanations, but the market will bear the higher salaries for foreigners.

My wife is a local English teacher. Her pay is not that lower than a native English speaker with comparable experience. I haven’t heard her complain yet.


#5

Just out of curiosity… How many hours a week do you work? And what level of students are you teaching?


#6

If it me you’re asking, the answer is that I don’t teach. I am not a native English speaker. With that avenue for easy money closed, I had to do something else - like doing research on the TW stock market.


#7

So, the cat is out of the bag. Studying those charts, eh? This one goes up; this one goes down; this one looks like a mountain range; this one looks like a crack in the sidewalk.
Pay me my NT$90,000 now Mr. Chen. I’m worth every penny!


#8

Yes, and your post was in a head and shoulders pattern, indicating that downside risk is present. :smiling_imp: I would go short on the salary proposal :laughing:

A paired trade between foreigners and locals would yield maximum upside by going long on the locals and short on the foreigners, especially in the lower-end part of the buxiban market, I believe.


#9

I want to know on an annual basis how much foreign English teachers are paid on average here in TW. Just to gauge it with other positions in the job market.


#10

WanderingDave
Why must any wage gap be reconciled (even if it could be)?

Are u saying u want foreigners to get paid less?
I just don’t get the point of your post.

I suspect you think that foreigners somehow don’t deserve their salary which tends to be relatively high compared to locals in equivalent jobs. Is that what u are trying to say?

The locals that I’ve spoken to over the years think native English speakers are fortunate because they can earn a fair bit of money as teachers here. None of them ever whined about it being unfair.

Anyway, as Hexuan rightly points out, it all comes down to supply and demand. Or perhaps you’d like the goverment to impose maximum wage limits for foreigners? It’d be a pretty daft idea and unworkable.

So, if you really want to reconcile the wage gap between locals and big noses you’ll have to fight market forces. Good luck.


#11

ECON101

Law of Supply: Higher prices equal more supply. Graphically, a positive relationship.
Law of Demand: Higher prices equal less demand. Graphically, an inverse relationship.
So where supply and demand meet, we have the price for a particular good or service.

Foreigners are paid just what the market sets: the equilibrium price. In other words, with all other factors being equal (ceteris parabis), the price at which foreigners are willing and able to sell their services equals the price buyers of the service are willing and able to pay.

Say those who demand English lessons were only willing and able to pay NT$100 and hour. How many “English teachers” would leave home for $3 an hour? None. They would be unwilling to sell their services at that rate. Supply would dry up


#12

Being an expat and not an Eglish teacher I would like to point out that sometimes special skills are required which are not present on the local market.
It is part of my job to transfer this knowledge which may take a couple of years and thus I see my being here justified.
Of course I have my price and in comparision I am much more expensive, but there are a few facts which are usually forgotten or overlooked by those complaining about the higher salary or other benefits (e.g. housing):

  • Based in a foreign country away from family and friends
  • Basically no job security or long-term contracts
  • Not a permanent resident and thus purchase of property or e.g. a car does not make sense (so the company will/should provide)
  • Different work attitude and add. skills which are not necessarily in the scope of the job function itself but increase efficiency or benefit the company otherwise
  • Expats may not only be a valuable employee but also an asset to the company

Based on that I see a higher salary justified to compensate for that. And obviously the local companies are willing to pay that price.

In case you didn’t know (based on previous posts) I work as an engineer for a small local company. I have two local engineers which are basically fresh and even though the studied telecommunications before their knowledge, including the very basics, is pretty poor. That said having a local degree is very different from degree in Germany but what they miss most is hands-on experience.
As well we deal with a highly complex system which requires a certain expertise they don’t have yet as it can take month if not years to become an expert on this.
It is my job to ensure we can roll-out and commission the networks smoothly and at the same time train them so they can perhaps take over later.
Being in a niche market where you require vendor specific skills my company basically had no choice than to hire me and pay the price for it - else there would be no project and, well, no company.
That I had worked already for several years in Asia before can also be considered as an advantage, not much time needed to settle in or getting used to the place (i.e. “no culture shock”).

All of the above not only applies to Taiwan but also other (Asian) countries to some extend.

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#13

I am not so sure about teaching - maybe that is just supply and demand - but engineering is a little more interesting situation. (I did some ESL teaching - the clients who payed most seemed the happiest - and I would challenge anyone who claimed that I was biased)

Foreigners bring the “what if??” syndrome. I say “Syndrome” because it really annoyes my wife, but has been identified as a major failing in Asian born engineers. They may be good designers, but appear to be unable to look outside the immeadiate solution, or for what could go wrong (to hammer home the point:).

Any way the place I worked in Engineering with locals - the foreigners worked their as off and the chinese engineers spent most of the day emailing their friends and chatting on ICQ, when they were not picking imaginary holes in the foreigners work. If it was not obvious to the management - that could be another comment.

When I went to university - it was to learn to think! - as well as to understand current technology - not pop out as a ready to use technically competent engineer. Shall we say - integrated circuits had just been invented and the lecturer confidently predicted that the price would fall to $US 10 cents per transistor in a few years.

So I guess I am trying to say that foreigners bring some skills that, maybe, the locals spouting here do not recognise.


#14

[quote]Attitude towards your work also matters. A taiwanese doing something may be delivering a more shoddy quality than the foreigner does - therefore the wage gap.

Taiwanese employees may get to the office at 8 am and leave at 5:30. The foreigners may be in at 7 am and leave at 8 pm, and be more prodictive in the meantime. Taiwanese complain about the foreigners getting paid too much - but fail to grasp that foreigners in general have a better work etics and work harder.
[/quote]

All the Taiwanese I know work like crazy compared to me.
Either you guys are exceptional (or German :smiley: ) or something weird is going on. Come on, the Taiwanese always stay in later than foreigners. No place I ever worked was I the last to leave and the boss usually stays around till God knows what time.

Ok so a lot of time might be wasted doing other stuff but so what. From what I can tell a lot of the time foreigners are paid more cos of the image they give to the company, often they could hire Taiwanese with lots more experience and just a little less English prowess. Sure some people have special tech skills but these would be the exception rather than the norm.

BTW Holger English teaching is not that easy money and to be honest is tedious after a while ( I used to do it). Besides being Danish is no impediment to teaching English in some cases (I’ve seen Russians and Peruvians teach English here)

For most people it is only a temporary calling. If you are good enough to get a high end teaching job the lifestyle is mighty fine I’m sure though. I get paid more in my company but I don’t have too many illusions about myself. My English skills and white face bring a nice veneer to the company that speaks a little better to investors.

There are still plenty of expats working at different things in Taiwan. I’ve met power station engineers, tunnel people, arms dealers, restauranteurs, IT people, salesmen, escort girls, wheeler-dealers, dot commers, reporters among the million or so English teachers out there. In my opinion if you come to Taiwan and develop something off your own steam or find your job yourself without getting it from home you are not an old style expat. That means that I wouldn’t qualify Rascal as an expat unless he got his job from Germany and Holger got his job here too after he got married (I assume).

The days of these Expat package thingies are finished except for very specialised professions such as tunnelers , Rascal etc . They can hire local people who work for 1/5 and are up to the same standard mostly.


#15

Well, I wouldn’t call my staff lazy and they seem keen to learn new things, but they do not necessarily stay later than the boss (which is me). Also my boss usually leaves office at 6pm sharp, but then he has familiy and I don’t …

However as mentioned they lack any practical experience and think differently: currently I find them in the write-down-and-copy mode instead of understanding-and-applying, so I try to teach them to think out of the box, use the documentation provided (instead of spoon-feeding them when I know the answer) and get their hands “dirty” by practising.
As well differences between local and German engineering are quite obvious, all has to be fast and cheap but I want to find a compromise between cost and quality so things will last (and impress our customer).
Not easy but another reason which justifies my job here and hopefully the pick up on this …

And for the record: I found Chinese (engineers) in Malaysia very capable and quick learners, in fact they were so much better than Malay in terms of attitude and skills and most of them have my highest respects.


#16

Flame time :smiling_imp: headhoncoII

In the place I work, foreigners leave later then the locals. That said, my department mainly consists of foreigners. (HK, Australia, Denmark, China, US, US, Canada etc.). the locals arent lazy, they just do different things, so they don’t have to stay.

The need for foreign expertise, skills etc is unlikely to dissappear. Salaries will always be higher than for local people - but that is justified, as hiring us brings more benefits as well.

Local co-workers might be envious. Not much to do about that. I would ignore it.

It is possible to start out here (as you rightfully stated that I did) and end up with an expat-like contract. I know it bacause I have had friends doing it. It is hard though, but 3rd country national status with a package in between is still attractive in my opinion.

Yes, I know that I could become an English teacher. My wife is a local one and she has pointed that out to me quite a few times recently. Even people with poor English and a white face get those gigs there. Moreover, I know that it can be boring (I used to work as a guide - saying the same things over and over every day. Bored me toward the end).

I would believe that a good english teacher is earning around NT$100k~NT$140K a month without working his/her arse off.


#17

[quote]Attitude towards your work also matters. A taiwanese doing something may be delivering a more shoddy quality than the foreigner does - therefore the wage gap.

Taiwanese employees may get to the office at 8 am and leave at 5:30. The foreigners may be in at 7 am and leave at 8 pm, and be more prodictive in the meantime. Taiwanese complain about the foreigners getting paid too much - but fail to grasp that foreigners in general have a better work etics and work harder.
[/quote]

Staying late doesn’t equal to working hard. What matters is the unit productivity. I’ve seen many (not all) foreign co-workers come in the office early and leave late, but while other local workers are working hard, those guys are taking their time when there are urgent things which need to be taken care of immediately, surfing on internet (for example, segue, ha!), exchanging private emails, taking their own long afternoon tea or coffee breaks, and going out for lunch for twice the length of time than locals do. They may stay longer time in the office, but they really can’t compare with locals who do the same work in terms of efficiency, performance, work ethics and productivity.

I think when a Taiwanese complains about the wage gap, he probably refers to the above-mentioned kind of foreign guys. If a foreigner is skillful, competent, and valuable to the company, of course he deserves higher pays. But what if he is not any better than a local who does the same job but still gets much higher pays? Won’t you guys whine about it if your less competent and productive foreign co-workers get higher pays than you do? This applies to local to local too. But even in this case, I still don’t think it’s necessary to blame or hate this kind of co-workers; instead, it is the incompetent and blind boss who pays a schmuck much higher pays that should be blamed.


#18

[quote]Attitude towards your work also matters. A taiwanese doing something may be delivering a more shoddy quality than the foreigner does - therefore the wage gap.

Taiwanese employees may get to the office at 8 am and leave at 5:30. The foreigners may be in at 7 am and leave at 8 pm, and be more prodictive in the meantime. Taiwanese complain about the foreigners getting paid too much - but fail to grasp that foreigners in general have a better work etics and work harder.
[/quote]

it is not the amout but the quality of work. I come from a non english teaching background and the people I meet they have one clear concept to pay what they think you are worth not the other way.

The only way to get higher pay than local guys is not to be a local guy.


#19

I work less hours, get higher pay and enjoy better treatment than the locals in my office.

I’m not sure if I work harder but I am more productive. As others have said, it’s market forces that make this so and I certainly don’t feel guilty about it.

Nevertheless, the Taiwanese are remarkably accommodating towards foreigners and I might not enjoy such preferential treatment in another foreign country. :slight_smile:


#20

[quote]It is possible to start out here (as you rightfully stated that I did) and end up with an expat-like contract. I know it bacause I have had friends doing it. It is hard though, but 3rd country national status with a package in between is still attractive in my opinion.

Yes, I know that I could become an English teacher. My wife is a local one and she has pointed that out to me quite a few times recently. Even people with poor English and a white face get those gigs there. Moreover, I know that it can be boring (I used to work as a guide - saying the same things over and over every day. Bored me toward the end).

I would believe that a good english teacher is earning around NT$100k~NT$140K a month without working his/her arse off[/quote]

Yes it’s possible to work your way up but it’s damn hard and you have to stick around quite a long time. During the boomtime it was much easier to get a plum position for a foreigner but I would say many of those positions are gone or migrated to China. If you speak Chinese your options are much broader. I get paid at senior manager level in my company yet the pay still does not equal some English teacher’s, this is because the company simply doesn’t have the money. To ask for more money would be pointless. Taiwan may be big in computers and electronics but outside this the opportunities become limited, it’s a small country after all.
I came after the boom and it’s not so easy, it all depends what you do I suppose. If you work in software or engineering you can get a great position but then again you could get that anywhere.

As for English teachers easily earning 100-140 K this is simply not true. I guess about 15% of teachers earn that amount and they mostly would work round the clock for that. If you are over for a year or two that’s ok I suppose.
I guess the average pay is about 80000 NT/month. All the ENglish teachers I know earning this and more live for their overseas holidays and trips back home and saturday nites at the Roxy, they don’t really do much else in Taiwan.

I have talked to many teachers about this and used to teach myself, most will admit the hours were unsustainable if you wanted some sort of life and many would burn out and take a lesser paid position. This is why you see many jobs in the paper advertising 800-1000/hr, what they don’t tell you is the tremendous aggravation and extra work often required.
To get that type of money long term you would have a master’s in TEOFL, education background , that sort of thing.

I have to echo the comment about being accomodating to foreigners, they are this to a fault and are often afraid to criticise your work or treat you the same as other employees, positive discrimination, not many countries like that around :smiley: