When I first came to Taiwan in 1999 I was paid NT$480 per hour at ELSI (now known as Kojen). Now seven years later, I am getting paid NT$650 per hour, a 35% increase.
It seems ok at first glance. However, when you consider a number of factors it is not very good at all.
The first one is exchange rates. Back in 1999 the exchange rate was NT$19 to AU$1. So if you convert the hourly rate to Australian dollars I was earning AU$25.26. In 2006 the exchange rate is NT$24 to AU$1. So my hourly rate is now AU$27.08. This is an increase of just 9% which would be below the rate of inflation.
The other thing to consider is my qualifications and experience. When I first came to Taiwan in 1999 I had just completed a TEFL certificate but I had no teaching experience. I could barely make a complete sentence in Mandarin. I now have four years of teaching experience and I can speak Mandarin well. While I was searching for a job in April this year a number of employers were interested in hiring me because of my experience but all of them still offered the same rate of NT$650 per hour.
I am sure there are some jobs out there which do actually reward people for their qualifications and experience, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Often jobs that require a B.Ed. or Master’s degree offer salaries that are little different from what an FOB gets paid for working in a kindergarten.
Money is not the main reason I came to Taiwan. And even though the hourly rate I am getting paid is not great I am still earning more than the average Taiwanese university graduate (and a hell of a lot more than someone working in 7-Eleven). However, I really would like to be rewarded a little for my experience.
UPDATE: Mark of Doubting to Shuo discusses this further on his blog. He has some interesting ideas about how to realise financial rewards teaching in Taiwan.