2,000 people apply for embalmer job
Published 25/01/2010 | 06:58
Designing computer chips and marketing flat screen televisions are not the only desirable jobs in Taiwan, one of Asia's high-tech hubs - there's also embalming.
When a funeral home advertised 10 openings recently, some 2,000 people applied. The main attraction: the money.
A licensed embalmer with a college degree earns up to £23,000 a year at Lung Yen Life Service, the upscale funeral home that advertised for new workers - a figure equal to the pay for a junior engineer in the country and more than twice as much as a hairdresser.
The industry has also run advertising campaigns in the hope of changing the perception that the business of handling corpses is unpleasant.
"In the past, if you told your parents you wanted to work in the funeral business, they would have passed out," said Fung Chia-li, a manager at Chin Pao San Group, another Taiwanese funeral home. "Now it is considered a decent job, though probably not as respected as teachers or engineers."
Big money was one of the things that drew Yuan Cheng-yi, 43, to a job at Lung Yen Life Service some five years ago. Sprucing up the dead requires more skill than helping the living get ready for a big night out, said Yuan, who would not reveal how much she makes.
"The skin of an iced body is extremely fragile and will peel off if not handled with care," she said. "And only a first-rate massage can relax a dead body and bring a peaceful expression to its face."
Funerals are lavish affairs in Taiwan, often involving weeks of ceremonies and elaborate processions with brass bands, dancing girls and hired mourners, who are paid handsomely to weep their hearts out for someone else's deceased relative.
Embalming can include massaging the body with perfumed oils or a new hair style -- anything from conservative to punk.
There are about 1,100 licensed embalmers in Taiwan. Their work often includes other funeral-related services and ceremonies as well.