Chips are becoming the world's most strategic product. Credit: Handout.

A shortage of semiconductor workers, and a shortage of water — Taiwan is now facing a battle on two fronts, neither of which it had any hand in creating.

Amid surging global demand for semiconductors, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) is launching a campaign to find 9,000 new recruits for its operations across the country, Taiwan News reported.

At the same time, Bloomberg reported that Taiwan has offered assurances that it has sufficient water reserves to keep the giant tech industry humming till late May, when monsoon rains arrive to alleviate its worst drought in decades.

Taiwan faces its worst drought in 56 years, a challenge to water-intensive sectors of the economy from chipmakers to textile factories and farms.

The heightened level of concern coincides with a global shortage of semiconductors that’s halting output at automakers from General Motors to Volkswagen, spurring TSMC and its peers to run their fabs at close to full capacity to try and sate demand, Bloomberg reported.

The campaign to reel in new recruits beings Friday at National Taiwan University in Taipei and will continue with presentations and job fairs at university campuses all over the country, Channel News Asia reported.

The company said it is looking for recruits to work at its offices and fabs in Hsinchu, Taichung, and Tainan.

The company is seeking new employees from a wide range of backgrounds, including electronics, chemistry, finance, human resources, psychology, and labor relations.

Recruitment events have been planned at 10 universities, from Tamsui to Kaohsiung, in March and April. The chipmaker said it expects to attract at least 3,000 applicants.

Tanker trucks arrived at TSMC factories across the country in late February to quench the chipmaker’s thirst for water.

Semiconductor manufacturers in Taiwan have been working at full capacity to fulfill orders, the Liberty Times reported.

Amid reports of surging business and fear of drought in several parts of Taiwan, companies like TSMC have ordered the tanker trucks to beef up their water supply.

Each truck can bring 20 tons of water at a cost of NT$30,000 (US$1,000).

As the prior year saw no typhoon pass through the nation, several chip manufacturers foresaw the problem and started placing orders for the trucks, but these will only provide a partial solution.

On Sunday, President Tsai Ing-wen said on her Facebook page her government will do everything in its power to stabilize supply, Bloomberg reported.

Chipmaking consumes enormous quantities of both power and water.

US, Japanese and European officials have urged the Taiwanese government to do all it can to ensure a steady supply of chips as automakers in their countries delay production and idle plants due to a lack of crucial components.

Spanning the Tropic of Cancer in the western Pacific Ocean, Taiwan typically receives copious amounts of rainfall., Bloomberg reported.

But last year was abnormally dry by historical standards. Hsinchu City, home to the likes of TSMC and MediaTek Inc., received just half the amount of rain in 2020 than it did the year before.

The southern city of Tainan, another major center of technology manufacturing, also saw a significant drop-off in the amount of rain, Bloomberg reported.

About 70% of Taiwan’s water supply goes toward agriculture while industrial production uses just 20%. The remainder is for residential and commercial use, Taiwan’s Water Resources Agency Deputy Director-General Wang Yi-fung told Bloomberg.

Typhoons are usually an important source of precipitation but they didn’t deliver for Taiwan last year. Not a single typhoon made landfall in all of 2020. 

Sources: Taiwan News, Bloomberg, Channel News Asia, Liberty Times