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Taiwan seeking to diversify supply of migrant workers

Taiwan seeking to diversify supply of migrant workers

Migrant health caregivers (1) By Bear Lee CNA staff writer
Taiwan is seeking to diversify its supply of migrant workers, especially caregivers in the wake of an announcement from Indonesia that it intends to gradually stop allowing its citizens to take up positions in Taiwan and some Asian countries from 2017. According to the Ministry of Labor, Taiwan currently employs more than 550,000 migrant workers, with about 230,000 from Indonesia. Of those, 170,000 are caregivers, accounting for 79 percent of all foreign health caregivers. On taking office in October, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, designated economic development and the protection of Indonesians abroad as policy priorities. More recently, Indonesian Vice President Muhammad Jusuf Kalla announced that Jakarta will stop its citizens working abroad in five years, citing the abuse they are subject to in some countries. On Feb. 27, Nusron Wahid, head of the Agency of Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers, said no more domestic workers will be sent to the Middle East starting this year, marking the first step in the rollback. Jakarta plans to gradually stop sending domestic workers to Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau and other countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific region beginning in 2017. However, he also said that Taiwan would be excluded from the list if it guarantees Indonesians workers the same legally stipulated minimum wage as its own nationals and treats them better, by for example providing separate accommodation from their employers. Taiwan is particularly vulnerable to this shift in policy by Indonesia because its ageing population means it is in urgent need of foreign workers, especially caregivers. In 2014, 11.5 percent of Taiwan's citizens were 65 years old or above and the government expects that the World Health Organization's definition of an "ageing society" -- where seniors (people aged 65 and over) account for 14 percent or more of the total population -- will soon reach. Currently, foreign caregivers or domestic helpers are paid NT$15,480 (about US$498) a month, lower than than the minimum wage, which is NT$19,273 and set to increase to NT$20,008 on July 1. However, the biggest problem for Indonesian workers in Taiwan is "exorbitant" brokerage fees, which can be as high as NT$60,000 and are described by Indonesian officials as "unacceptable." Taiwan's Ministry of Labor has said it does not object to better protections for foreign workers, but expressed concern that that many families may not be able to afford a salary of more than NT$15,840 for caregivers. As part of efforts to prevent foreign heath caregivers' salaries from being eroded by miscellaneous charges, the ministry has urged would-be employees to directly hire workers themselves rather than through brokers, but to little effect. In response to concerns over the supply of foreign migrant workers, Taipei is now looking to reduce its reliance on any one foreign country as a source of labor and is talking with the authorities in Myanmar about a possible deal for its citizens. It is also considering soliciting workers from Vietnam following a 10-year ban imposed after a 10 percent run-away rate was recorded among Vietnamese workers in 2004. The run-away rate dropped to 5.7 percent in 2004 after the Vietnamese government imposed a fine of NT$150,000 and a two-year ban on taking up overseas work on migrant workers who left their positions without permission.


Updated : 2021-04-11 16:11 GMT+08:00