In Taiwan, seafaring is among the few hidden, inglorious career options that offer decent, developed-country-level earnings. Those who are willing and daring, could earn an envious salary by foregoing months of freedom, locked away at sea with the loneliness known only to seafarers.

With the incoming offshore wind industry which has taken the Nation’s marine talents by storm, many young seafarers took it as the beacon of hope to earn a comparable living wage while staying closer to land. For a few years, things were going well, or so it seemed. However, looking ahead to 2022, the future of a fulfilling career in the Offshore Wind Industry in Taiwan is crumbling at a rapid speed for all local seafarers.

A GWO certified seafarer who, because of his/her extensive experience working abroad, was hired by a prominent European firm as an A/B but used as a one-man-army taking care of the gigantic office works including crewing, admin, purchasing, etc. He/she was astounded by a conversation that took place after the winter holiday:


''Headquarters cut my salary after the winter break! I have now been given twice the work and 3 times the responsibility compared to last year. I've gotten 2 new certificates, am striving to better and improve myself, and become a higher value asset to the company yet they want to "go-local" with my rate. Their very words - ‘go-local’, cutting an astonishing 60% of my salary simply BECAUSE their Taipei accounting firm suggested that it’s what the role is worth in Taiwan?''

''My European colleagues kept complimenting me that your country (Taiwan) is rich, building all these giant wind farms and creating jobs for us locals.''

a young DP(Dynamic Positioning Officer)-In-Training seafarer

''What they never saw is that all the local technicians onboard aren’t getting paid what the mother company budgeted for. And they won’t believe it either. How is any European technician supposed to look at us as equals if they know our turbine techs are getting paid less than 3K USD per month, some less than 2K USD?''


As a recognized “Developed-Country”, the Taiwanese government is aiming for Offshore Wind to produce an astonishing ~20% of all produced electricity by 2025. With such an ambitious undertaking, large numbers of local marine talent are needed. Within just a few short years after Offshore Wind arrived in Taiwan, global energy hunters ranging from the UK, Singapore, to Denmark – are all making their spots known on this small APAC island.

One has had the honor to have applied, interviewed, and received offers from various companies just within 2022. Some from hunters, others from direct applications. A wonderful experience aside, the most notable and worth-sharing point is surprisingly that:


There are roles supplied to various agencies by the same client. The said a foreign agency would provide a clean sheet comparison of their day rate vs. client direct-hire day rate, along with the extra services the agencies will help cover. Everything is on the charts.

The end client may justifiably feel that they are playing on a level field by offering fair remuneration for those who end up in their employ, unaware of the practice by local Taiwanese agencies, who would send their recruits on board a vessel, paying them 50-60% LESS salary than the client had intended and which would have been offered by the foreign hunter packages.


The same role, same client, same rotation. Just different agents from different countries can yield such a big gap, the lowest being from our own people

They Won't Be The Last

These collective experiences are not and will not be the only exceptional incident. According to an industry hiring expert, a crewing coordinator role from a tier-one European developer could make close to 3-times the day rate if signed through a foreign hunter, versus the one who got the job through a local Taiwanese agent.

This person also stated that the budget per role from the mother company would mostly stay the same no matter how many agencies they passed the role to. It is also widely accepted that different hunters take different % cuts, though normally within 20%. The huge gap among the Taiwanese agencies could possibly be due to the nature that these seafaring firms had long existed for decades before the Offshore Wind entered the scene.

Although they suddenly are dealing with a brand-new industry, they kept the end rate for seafarers low due to the historical fear of “Market-Disruption” for labor wages in    Taiwan.


Photo/Getty Images

Complete Dispatching

Things get unbelievably suspicious when a giant European wind company literally outsourced their local hiring process almost “entirely” to a Taiwanese Dispatching firm. Throughout the interview process, the applicant only talked to someone representing the giant ONCE – during the interview. No salary negotiation was even possible since the before and after are all with the dispatching rep. who knows very little about what exactly is working offshore, evading the candidate’s questions by repeatedly answering, “I don’t know. I’m just relaying the information given to us by the giant.”

 Though outsourcing HR functions has been a standard practice for many corporations when the talents do not directly design, plan, or handle key long-term products for the companies. It is also more common for mid-size companies that do not have the extra resources to allocate for their HR.

When this certain tier-one giant decided to eliminate 80% of its local HR function to a Taiwanese Dispatching firm, it shows instead of caring for the local society, a rather distrusting spirit towards their own brand. Even the Big 5 at Silicon Valley only covered below 40% of their entire manpower through dispatching firms. It shows that, though as big as this giant is, setting up a healthy and fair hiring example is not their priority. A no-negotiation, no-questions-asked, and the take-it-or-leave-it attitude, is in fact, embedded at their front door before any Taiwanese walks in.

Some readers might wonder, if an “Office Coordinator” is just an office coordinator, no matter what type of industry you’re in. Why should the Offshore Coordinators be any special in compensation compared to those who are working in other industries?

Where Is The 50% Gap?

A European project manager has shared that, since Taiwan’s goal for 2025 production is quite ambitious, plus there’s a shorter construction window due to the Taiwan Strait weather, along with the restrictions of bringing in overseas talents because of Covid on top of all the other hurdles, a lot of these “coordinators” are in fact, seafarers who have a more global mindset and better English, so it’s vital for them to help with the office procedures first.

And in fact, when the construction high season hits, which is during the heated, steamy, tropical summer months, these “coordinators” whom the general public and local accountants disregarded as simple, comfy, office jobs, would be sent out with the vessels occasionally, especially during the days when the requirement of minimum-Taiwanese-crew-onboard numbers cannot be met.

These ‘coordinators’ who are 100% seafarers with certifications are the perfect surf & turf talents for these foreign companies. Thus, I sincerely wonder about the true reason behind the local agencies’ beliefs, that the roles should be compensated the same as other land-based industries? 

Furthermore, the outsourced accounting firms and local agencies are not the ones responsible for cash flow on salaries. The salary budget came from their clients anyway.

''But you know, running a company is costly and expensive as well. We also have employees to feed.'' That’s right! Running a business is never an easy, simple task, and we can totally relate to the pressures of doing so.

However, even with empathy in mind, we must ask ourselves, is the said foreign hunting firm NOT a healthy business? With the same original budget for roles, where does the other 50% go? Are the local agencies implying that these foreign hunters are doing some kind of generous non-profit work? The operational costs of the Foreign Agencies are considerably higher than those of the local companies. Surely it takes no Einstein to calculate who of the two is reaping considerably higher profits?


Photo: Getty Images Signature

New Industry, Old Rules 


The “Offshore Wind” can be considered a brand new, incoming industry to Taiwan in the last 5 years. Terms like “Turbine Technicians” and “CTV (Crew Transfer Vessels) were not even a part of our marine academies’ textbooks until recently. If Taiwan still wants to solve the problem of unhealthy labor benefits, isn’t it the perfect opportunity for change when a large number of foreign companies are all investing their expertise and knowledge into Taiwan for a brand new, nationwide industry?

Official data has shown that Taiwan’s wage structure has stayed stagnant since the 2008 financial crisis. Stagnant in income, but with a rising cost of living that has already overtaken other developed countries. 5 years ago, a bowl of regular ramen in Taipei City was already more expensive than the ones found in Los Angeles, USA; when it is still possible to buy a large loaf of toast with $1.99 USD, one can no longer buy the same loaf for the equivalent of $60 TWD today.

A lot of the data and numbers show that Taiwan has entered the era that has a Developed-Country-living-cost with a Developing-Country-income-structure. The excuse that was meant to be consoling to oversea-Taiwanese who still long to earn a comparable living back home: “Sure, you may earn less in Taiwan, but it’s also cheaper to live there” unfortunately does not stand true anymore.

The Double-Edged Sword of 22 K

Income structure has historically been a complex and difficult issue to tackle for any government. Taiwan is no different. Decades have gone by with annual inflations while the minimum wage hasn’t changed since 2008. However, we cannot disregard the fact that the $22K/month (~$733USD) minimum wage that was first introduced as labor protection back in 2008, had already turned into the shackle for the laboring class NOT being compensated fairly for over a decade. Furthermore, it became an everlasting excuse for local corporations to collectively keep hiring talents at below international market rates. If a 5-star branded hotel pays just $3K TWD (~$100USD) more than a local motel per month, then those who are trapped on this island certainly have nowhere else to go.

Of course, it takes time for tradition to change. It’ll take even more effort to change a certain culture. We now can look back and agree that it’d be futile to wait for Blockbuster to upgrade or renew itself, rather than allowing Netflix to come into the scene and be the rule-breaker completely. This is when the free-market argument can be actually beneficial to society.

Netflix V.S. Offshore Wind Taiwan

And Offshore Wind to Taiwan has lots of similarities with Netflix to the cinema industry. Taiwan has relied on OEM and Chip industries economically for more than a decade. So, when the European Offshore Wind developers were willing to invest in Taiwan, wasn’t this the golden opportunity as a game-changer for the entire country, especially when the wage structure has been stuck for a decade?

But as the opening story goes, the only reason behind that GWO-certified seaman who just received the huge pay-cut this year, was simply because, “the local, outsourced accountant, suggested to the European headquarter, that this certain role deserves 50% less”. When in fact, his/her day rate previously was already 50% less compared to an average European A/B Deckhand.

 According to this seaman, the accountant even asked blatantly to his/her face, “… I assume you just carry your laptop and work from home all the time anyway, correct?” Such ignorance towards what an offshore role entails and all the risks involved in just being around a construction area, yet it is these very people, these accountants, and local agencies, who are NOT seafarers, NOR who understand even slightly the truth and scope of the work, hold the authority to decide Taiwanese seafarers’ salary ranges.

A Fight Among the Locals

The 2022 industry-standard day rate for an Onboard Steward is around $3.5K~4.5K TWD, while a role such as “Site Technician” which entails more certifications and more risks, is given a lower salary through the local agents, it shows only disrespect to the talents and to the risks involved.

We have to ask ourselves as Taiwanese, do we really want to showcase to the world that in our own eyes, our own people’s talent and experiences truly meant nothing? If we gave so much power without accountabilities to local agents and accountants to determine what seafarers should be compensated, have they ever taken the brutal and costly STCW training? Or the GWO? Or climbed the wind turbines? Or done any risky offshore roles, ever?

A manager who has worked in Taiwan for some years also confirmed that “There is no way that a European manager would ever think of paying $50-80K TWD as salary for a Wind Turbine Technician when the average monthly salary in the UK is ~$170K TWD. No, not by himself.” 

Yet when you flip through Taiwanese news, the flashing title of “Wind Turbine Technicians: the Hot New Jobs that pay AS HIGH AS $80K TWD/month (~$2.7K USD)” serves as the irony of the decision-makers behind that number. (*hint: these aren’t foreigners!)

When the national minimum wage has stayed below $2.6K/month TWD (~$880 USD) for decades, it is understandable that Taiwanese media LOVES to envy and discount seafarers in speaking up about their rights and equal-pay issues. Though one must not forget that in offshore work, any role – be it a painter or electrician, needs to possess a seaman’s book before being allowed to perform their duties on any vessel.

Even a bartender on a cruise ship is considered a seafarer and should be compensated as such, for during an unexpected emergency at sea, every single crew member on board needs to take on the role of firefighter or medical staff immediately. These marine certifications, even as basic as the STCW, are required to comply with international standards. Thus, these certain issues should not be discussed and compared ONLY within Formosa Island.

A DPO, Dynamic Positioning Operator, is a certified role that’s not only difficult and expensive to get, but with a long and tedious process. Those who receive the full DPO are almost guaranteed global work access with higher pay than Taiwan’s shipping companies. But a Taiwanese DP Trainee revealed that there are only around 20 DP-certified Taiwanese at the moment, yet the majority of them work abroad. Why is that?

Virtually unknown to us before the recent boom, the position of an onboard DPO was not even a staple term or option offered by the island’s marine Academies. Local marine talents literally never heard of the role 5 years ago. Yet strangely, when it became a hot commodity all of a sudden, the local hiring managers did not seek the international average rates status as a starter, instead, they looked at what’s the “local merchant vessel” rates (which had been below other developed countries for ages, just FYI). These local companies then design a number slightly lower than the merchant vessel roles, making the Taiwanese DPO role about ~40% LESS compared with international market rates, and sugar-coated it to the recruits that:


You’ll finally be able to work closer to your family


When the DPO certifications are recognized worldwide and those talents have the access to work on international projects, and when Equal-Pay has been a central argument for labor rights in other developed countries for years, why are Taiwan’s own agencies creating compensation numbers for new roles based on old and traditional jobs? 

Additionally, the Taiwanese culture has long accepted having different pay scales before: a “secretary” at technology firms historically out-earned a “secretary” at hotel chains; when the Hsinchu Science Park took flight around 1980, it did not copy the traditional industries’ salary structures either. So when our media and government have been calling and wishing this Green Energy industry to become the next National Stronghold economically, why isn’t the labor structure allowed to play its own new rules like the Hsinchu Science Park?


Photo/ Pexels,圖與本文無關

Always On Our Own

Strengthen yourself and find a job abroad” has historically been the only solution for talents wishing to be compensated fairly and have a “brighter” future, however, is it truly the best for our nation’s growth?

Taiwan has been considered a developed country for years yet our model for labor traditions resembles those of developing countries with no signs of intentional improvement. If Offshore Wind as a <5-yr-old-industry can be brought down to the same ground as the local construction wage in mere 5 years, nothing else can save Taiwan’s labor conditions anymore.

 “I’m heading home to Taiwan for my family.

From the open sea back to Formosa’s shore; from Silicon Valley back to Hsinchu; and from the world back to Taiwan. It’s a sentence all oversea Taiwanese understand far too well.

As important as it should be for the majority, “Family” seems to have become the sole reason that draws overseas Taiwanese to come back to the island for ages across all industries. Though no judgments towards people’s decisions based on family, when the only reason a recognized Developed Country can offer its citizen to attract them back to the motherland is family – not opportunities, not better work environments, and not bigger career stages – shouldn’t this ring an alarm to Taiwan’s overall development?

Is there anything to be proud of when this reason, family, which has nothing to do with careers nor passions or government, became the ONLY reason many Taiwanese chooses Taiwan?

The COVID-19 pandemic set off nearly unprecedented waves of career change in the U.S. labor market, driven in part by what’s come to be known as the Great Resignation. Taiwan is no different. Since the 2nd half of 2021, Talent War has been covered by almost all major news outlets. Coupled with inflation, almost all the major industries in developed countries are raising their pay scale to keep talents afloat.

 Yet during the very year that other industries are fighting tooth and nail to raise their profiles with raises, the touted Next-Gen-Powerhouse offshore wind sector in Taiwan is cutting pay at every corner thanks to the our own Taiwanese agencies and accountants.

5 Years Was All It Took

Only 5 short years was enough for European developers to go from a salary base of ‘Cheaper than European’ (which was accomplished since day-1) to 2022’s ‘Slightly Higher than Southeast Asian’.

5 years was all it took, for a developed country to pull its own salary standard down to compare with developing countries. No discrimination is intended here, but this is a writing of a Taiwanese citizen, so our responsibility is to look after our island’s issues. The funny thing is, this change did not happen because of outsiders, but all due to the citizens of this country.

Surely it takes a great deal of effort and time to train up talents. However, the Offshore Wind industry is still at the infant stage now, and lowering our own standard and respect as Taiwanese at this point cannot be the healthy foundation needed for a brand new opportunity going forward. If we still want to attract new talents into this industry, what are we giving the young mariners as incentives now?

One would have NEVER imagined hearing this truly local Taiwanese expression from a European manager, “I’d disrupt your market standard here in Taiwan if I agree with your day-rate request”. I only want to ask my fellow Taiwanese to ask ourselves, who taught him about this “market standard”? (*hint: surely not other Europeans)

During those early years when Netflix was taking over the entertainment industry, not only did Blockbuster go out of business, traditional production houses like Warner Brothers and Disney were scrambling to upgrade and renew themselves, too, to keep up with the new storm brought by Netflix.

If the same situation were to happen in Taiwan, would our society fight to prevent Blockbuster from bankrupting, protect Warner Brothers, and babysit the golden boy Disney, and instead, put all our efforts into stopping Netflix from growing and disrupting the industry?


The sad thing is that’s what Taiwan has always done historically.


To Leave OR To Stay

2022 will be a decisive year for Taiwan. Not only did the major shipping companies finally raise the salary for their seafarers after a decade, the gradually opened international market is also calling those who came back just because of COVID 2 years ago. The decision between Leave OR Stay is hovering in the minds of all Taiwanese talents.

2 years ago when COVID was at its peak, large numbers of overseas Taiwanese came back to this island seeking shelter. Many consider staying long term if they can find the market suitable or better. The media was covering this trend with pride, hoping the sudden influx of international talents could raise Taiwan’s competitive edges in the world. But now we reach 2022, it’s time to cash out those dreams and see the truths that society has been ignoring.

What can Taiwan offer as incentives to these young people, when working as a full-time barista at Starbucks in the U.S. earns you more than being a department manager in a 5-star hotel in Taiwan? Are we really going to bring out that “Family” excuse again?

And for our Offshore Wind development still behind the rigorous schedule and lacking manpower (read this amazing article for more info), there were indeed the incentives of attractive rates, a better future, and closer to land to entice young marine talents. But with the worsening packages compared with shipping companies, it is going to be even harder now for the industry to allure top talents, unless some developers are still happy to hand their local authorities to their “Taiwan-in-charge person” who constantly brings back open-numbered receipts for company reimbursements? 

The biggest irony in this whole issue is that Taiwan has never gotten into a dead-end because of outside forces in the past 30 years. Those industries that once shone like fireworks and were gone just as quickly, were all cornered to a dead end because of our own people.

We may still have one last chance to give the young Taiwanese a brighter future. That change needs to start now. Total capitalism and a complete market economy may not be the final answer to all social problems, but to utilize an outside force to push Taiwan’s marine talents to the world, and to achieve a win-win situation for all industries through one, I sincerely believe that Taiwan still holds that potential.

After all, one should not need extra convincing to be a decent human being.

And love alone cannot generate electricity.