The Taiwanese parliament has embarked on an analysis of proposed new legislation to tackle the issue of talent ‘brain drain’ away from the island.

The Act for the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professional Talent, which eases regulations for foreign white collar workers, will be scrutinised by politicians during the current legislative session, which began last Friday (22 September) and runs until the end of the year.

The draft bill, approved by the cabinet in April, removes some of the major hurdles to the recruitment of these workers, notably extending work and residence permits from the current maximum term of three years to a revised limit of five years; granting income tax incentives; and facilitating swifter inclusion of workers’ spouses and children into Taiwan’s celebrated national health system.

It also removes the requirement that foreign white collar workers must remain in Taiwan for at least 183 days per year to maintain their status, and allows foreign nationals to enter Taiwan on a job-seeking visa, valid for six months instead of the current three.

Among the bill’s most controversial changes are that students and new graduates of foreign universities will be permitted to seek internships in Taiwanese companies, which opposition lawmakers claim could be exploited by people taking low-paid jobs in the name of internships, to the detriment of local talent.

The underlying driver for the Act is the increasing lure the dynamic economy of mainland China has on Taiwanese talent.

According to the Taiwanese government’s most recent statistics, 420,000 Taiwanese worked in mainland China in 2015 out of a total of 724,000 working overseas.

Oxford Economics’ Global Talent 2021 report said that Taiwan will have the most acute shortage of skilled workers of any nation by 2021. And the Economist Intelligence Unit has warned the country’s labour shortage will become more acute in the next five to ten years as the effects of an extremely low birth rate and the migration of Taiwan professionals abroad outweigh measures to attract new migrant talent.

“The brain drain does pose significant challenges for Taiwan’s HR departments, with two of the key challenges being retention of talent and attraction of talent,” said Shaun Cronin, director at recruitment agency Michael Page Taiwan, in an interview with People Management.

“While attracting new talent is important, companies should make sure they get their retention strategies right first, as increased retention rates mean you spend less time finding replacement people and can invest more of your time finding great new talent,” he said.

Cronin pointed out that retention strategies are not only about matching the competition in mainland China from a pay perspective. In his view, Taiwan’s HR departments should make sure they invest in their employer brand and employee value proposition (EVP).

“Having a strong employer brand in the market goes a long way to attracting new talent – in particular high calibre talent,” Cronin said. “A clear and attractive EVP will aid companies’ communication of what they have to offer potential new hires and will also have a positive impact on existing employees and retention.”

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