Taiwan: The Disappearance of the ‘Golden Tale’ — White Goods in a Changing Global Economy
Taiwan, with a population of little over 22 million, is renowned throughout the world for its strong rates of economic growth in the three decades or so up to the 1997 Asian financial crisis and for its pronounced export orientation. Most particularly, it is known for its OEM (original equipment manufacturing) of garments and textiles for American and other buyers in the 1960s and 1970s, including large retailers like K-Mart, and for its shift to the production, again for export, of second tier electronics products thereafter. Taiwan’s white goods industry (we focus particularly on refrigerators) has attracted much less attention, though it played its part in the country’s early development, and is characterised, among other things, by two particular features that inform what we have to say here. One of these concerns the extent to which the industry has itself now gone off-shore from Taiwan, especially to China, so that China now substantially serves the Taiwan- based industry as an OEM producer, with consequent pressures on what refrigerator production that still takes place in Taiwan. The other concerns the implications of Taiwan’s white goods industry having been dominated by Japanese companies and the extent to which employment in these companies — once highly regarded by Taiwanese employees for their wages and conditions of work (the ‘golden tale’) — are now themselves transforming under the perceived pressure of international competition.
KeywordsEarly Retirement Labour Union Wage Increase Foreign Worker Global World
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