Page last updated at 23:21 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 00:21 UK

Beating the recession in Taiwan

By Cindy Sui
BBC News, Taiwan

Trying to pay the mortgage and credit card bills? Just got laid off? Time, then, to be inventive.

In Taiwan, jobs are scarce and it is hard to qualify for unemployment or welfare benefits. So people are coming up with innovative, and sometimes downright quirky, ways to survive the economic downturn.


Chang You-wu, 35, married with a mortgage

Chang You-wu
Chang You-wu (centre) queues up to buy a brand-name bag for a client

Mostly, I queue up for people to help them buy limited supply items, like Levi jeans or concert tickets. Last year I lined up for 1,000 hours. My slogan is 'You're busy? I'll do it for you!'

One of the strangest cases I've had was being a woman's temporary boyfriend. We went to a park. She just wanted to know what it felt like to have a boyfriend.

I've also gone furniture shopping with another single woman. I helped her pick out furniture and pushed the cart for her.

I'm paid NT$150 (US$4.50; £3) an hour. I make about NT$20,000-40,000 (US$608-1,216) a month. The income and the hours are very unstable. But I like the fact I can meet a lot of people. I like the freedom the most. I hope to set up a global errand-running business someday.


Kao Shu-fang, 45, mother-of-three

Kao Shu-fang catches mosquitoes
Kao Shu-fang's work will prevent Dengue fever

I was feeling depressed about being jobless. Then my friend took me to apply for one of the temporary jobs the government was providing for unemployed people.

We have to knock on people's doors and ask them to let us into their homes to get rid of sources of standing water and catch mosquitoes. Our city will host the 2009 World Games in July, and we need to eradicate mosquitoes to avoid outbreaks of Dengue fever.

They're not hard to catch. Once they are in our nets, we suck them into a bottle and freeze them for the laboratory to test.

I have to go to 50 households in the morning and 50 in the afternoon. I make NT$800 (US$24) a day.


Jenny Hsu, 33, single mother-of-one

Jenny Hsu shaving eyebrows
Jenny Hsu says trimmed eyebrows improve a client's job prospects

I run a beauty salon out of my home, but business hasn't been good so I decided to rent a stall at a busy night market and shave people's eyebrows.

I'm very good at it. My reputation has spread. On weeknights I get about 50 customers, and about 80 at weekends.

I charge NT$88 each, and another NT$12 if they buy their own razor for reuse. After paying the stall rental fees, I earn about NT$5,000 ($152) a night in extra income.

I get male customers too. They think shaping their eyebrows will bring them good luck. Having well-shaped eyebrows makes people look better, more alert. No matter how well made-up you are, if you've got bushy eyebrows growing over your eyes, you don't look as good. Customers are shocked when I show them the difference. They wonder why they never bothered before.

It can give people more confidence when they go for a job interview.

Regarding the bad economy, I feel the more anxious you are, the less able you are to find a direction for yourself. Be creative, learn a skill and be good at it. That way you can always make a living.


Linda Chiu, 31, single with a mortgage

Linda Chiu
Linda Chiu (left) and her friends worked on a music video shoot

I have a job, but after paying my mortgage I have almost nothing to live on. My family is helping me out, but I'm trying to make extra income after work and on weekends.

I do odd jobs - anything really. I look for adverts on a website. So far I've worked as a movie extra and really enjoyed it. One time I worked on a music video as one of the fans of the artist.

Another time I was asked to be a model to promote a company's product.

To save money, I don't really go clothes shopping. If I have spare time, I go to bookstores to read books and magazines for free.


Cheng Jun, 29, soon-to-be father

Cheng Jun collects a drugs prescription
Cheng Jun's job also has an important social side to it

I used to work in a factory, but it relocated to China. I was unemployed for a year. In March, I began helping a friend with his new business - picking up and delivering drugs for people with chronic or serious illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer or pneumonia.

They can't get around easily. When I see my customers, I have a warm feeling, like I'm helping my grandfather. Their son or grandson is busy, so they also feel good there's someone coming by to help them. Sometimes they pay me extra to take them to the park for a stroll.

I also help them make appointments, sometimes staying at hospitals overnight to queue up for appointments with popular doctors.


Kuo Lu-wen, 39, mother-of-two

Kuo Lu-wen
Kuo Lu-wen hands out leaflets to passers-by

My husband and I used to work almost every night from 1900 to 0400, glueing advertisement posters to buses.

But there's been little work lately, so I've started handing out leaflets on streets instead.

Some people are very nice; they encourage us by saying things like 'Working hard!' That really touches me.

Between the two of us, we make NT$50,000 (US$1,500) a month. It's not enough, because our mortgage payments are high, so we are having to use our credit card.

What pleases me is that my son knows to contribute to the family. He gives us the money he makes helping out in the school canteen.

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