Taiwan jobless rate spikes to six year high on virus impact

TAIPEI, May 22 (Reuters) - Taiwan’s unemployment rate hit 4.1% in April, a more than six-year high, the government announced on Friday, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on the export-dependent economy.

April’s jobless rate was the highest since December 2013.

Taiwan’s government is rolling out an economic stimulus package that will eventually be worth T$1.05 trillion ($34.98 billion), including a T$30,000 wage subsidy for workers whose income was impacted by the virus and interest-free personal mortgages of up to T$100,000.

Unemployed workers are entitled to claim 60% of their monthly income, as well as subsidies of up to T$24,000 for their children’s tuitions.

Taiwan’s largest carrier, China Airlines, in April announced a three-month pay cut of 15% to 25% for all employees starting from May, to reduce costs as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic weighs on the aviation industry.

Unlike many countries around the world, Taiwan did not enter a total lockdown due to early and effective control of the virus, and life has continued almost as normal, though the government has encouraged social distancing and wearing masks.

The economy has also not been as badly affected as many of Taiwan’s neighbours.

Taiwan’s April export orders unexpectedly grew for a second consecutive month fuelled by strong demand for telecommuting products such as laptops amid the coronavirus outbreak that has kept millions of people around the world at home.

But the government has repeatedly warned of uncertainty ahead. Economic growth slowed to its weakest in nearly four years in the first quarter as the pandemic crimped domestic consumption and tourism.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, beginning her second term in office this week, vowed to do whatever it took to stabilise the island’s economy. ($1 = 30.0130 Taiwan dollars) (Reporting by Emily Chan and Yimou Lee; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)