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Taiwan's youth deserting the country
Taiwan has failed to keep up with competition since its economic growth and rapid industrialisation two decades ago.

Salaries have stagnated, and as a result many young Taiwanese are seeking greener pastures.

China correspondent Huey Fern Tay reports.
Transcript
AUSKAR SURBAKTI, PRESENTER: In the 1980s and 1990s, Taiwan was known as one of Asia's four tiger economies.

Strong economic growth lured back some of its elite who had begun leaving in droves two decades before.

But since then Taiwan has failed to keep up with the likes of Singapore and Hong Kong. Salaries have stagnated and as a result, many young Taiwanese once again are seeking greener pastures.

China correspondent Huey Fern Tay reports from Taipei.

HUEY FERN TAY, REPORTER: Henry Chang is riding a very particular urban bike. A bicycle that he and his friends Cesare Sun invented.

It's a small wheeled bicycle that is ideal for moves around the cramp surroundings of Taipei and was created in the studio they co-founded five years ago. The pair got their funding from the Taiwanese public after Henry and Cesare advertised their invention on a local website.

Crowd funding is already a popular way of fundraising in the US.

So far, Taiwanese donors have given around $31,000 to fund the friends' creation.

HENRY CHANG, GEARLAB: The first project which launched was 20 bikes for two months I think. We sold all the bikes in 10 days. And that was just too overwhelming.

HUEY FERN TAY: The website they used to raise funds, Flying V, is a forum for Taiwanese to sell their ideas, to get noticed to break out of a persistent trend of low salaries. The site was devised by Tim Cheng and his friends. In Taiwan, a graduate starting salary is around $870 Australian a month. Five years later, their monthly salary may increase to $1,500.

But progress from then on is slow and has been across all part of the wage distribution since 2001.

TIM CHENG, CO-FOUNDER, FLYING V: The global firms in Taiwan are kind of losing the point of investing in Taiwan, really before it was kind of like the bridge to China or even before that it was Taiwanese do manufacture good stuff for less. And now we're losing all of that.

HUEY FERN TAY: Political infighting and failure to keep up with the pace of rapid change in this globalised world has seen Taiwan, once known as the four tigers of Asia, fiscally fade.

Meanwhile, the other tiger economies Hong Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore have powered on. Economist Liu Yau says Taiwan's economy is at a critical point.

LIU YAU JR, TAIWAN ECONOMIC RESEARCH INSTITUE (TRANSLATED): Other countries may use the crisis as an opportunity to hire talent to invest. But because Taiwan is dominated by small and medium enterprises, their operations tend to be more conservative. That is why when it comes to hiring staff their first priority is how to survive this period. We hope this transitional period will be a short one.

HUEY FERN TAY: The glut of fresh graduates is one reason why salaries have remain suppressed for a very long time. Now that has two implication, it's causing some Taiwanese to remain overseas and is also one reason why others are considering leaving for better opportunities in mainland China, Hong Kong or other cities in the region.

TAIWANESE RESIDENT: Some of them have already moved out of Taiwan. Some I think they are also looking for opportunities as well. But if they got married they would be settled down in Taiwan.

The brain drain from Taiwan has been described by its President as an issue of national security, even though the outflow of talent is a far cry from the '60s and '70s when there was flight of the best and brightest from Taiwan to the US.

Those who have recently returned home are the ones providing a glimmer of hope for Taiwan.

Tatsuo Eguchi has been running Sony's computer entertainment operations in Taipei and Shanghai over the past eight years.

TATSUO EGUCHI, SONY COMPUTER ENTERTAINMENT (TRANSLATED): I worked in Shanghai for three years and I have done a comparison between my experience in Shanghai and Taipei.

We place a lot of emphasis on creativity because we in the business of developing gaming software and hardware. There are more Taiwanese who study overseas and the important thing is that they come back with expertise and this is unique to Taiwan.

HUEY FERN TAY: Market conditions aren't optimistic for Taiwan in the short term, with continued uncertainty in Europe and concern over economic growth in the US and mainland China.

But many choose to stay, despite the gloomy domestic picture.

CESARE SUN, FOUNDER, GEARLAB: Taiwanese people, they feel more comfortable being home.

Compared to the other countries people. They like to stay at home, if they can find a good opportunity here, good pay.

HUEY FERN TAY: There's an urgency for Taiwan to jump start salary growth. The brain drain is a sign that something needs to change.

Taiwanese fiercely proud of the place they call home remain hopeful of a breakthrough, a better tomorrow, as the island struggles to regain the confidence of its economic heyday.
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