MECO chairman hopes to see more direct hiring of Filipino workers

MECO chairman expressed hope that there will be more direct hiring of Filipino migrant workers to spare them burden of hefty brokerage fees

MECO Chairman Angelito Banayo (By Central News Agency)

Taipei, Sept. 22 (CNA) The head of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei has expressed the hope that there will be more direct hiring of Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan to spare the workers the burden of hefty brokerage fees.

In an interview with CNA earlier this week, MECO Chairman and Resident Representative Angelito Banayo said progress has been made over the past years in lowering brokerage fees for migrant workers, "but more can be done."

He pointed out that Taiwanese recruitment agencies sometimes collaborate with Filipino brokers to charge workers hidden fees. Workers may also borrow money from the recruitment agencies to pay for the fees and are charged high interest rates, he said.

"Those are things that have to be cracked down on," said Banayo, whose office is the Philippines' de facto embassy in Taiwan.

Filipino workers pay fees to manpower brokers in their home country to secure a job in Taiwan because they cannot find those job openings on their own, and depend on brokers to find them, according to the Taiwan International Workers' Association (TIWA).

Brokers often charge the workers between NT$50,000 (US$1,657) and NT$120,000 in fees, the association said, exceeding the legal maximum of one month's salary.

The workers are often told that the fees include visa fees, airfare, training fees and fees for other documents, but the brokers often leave the workers to pay these fees on their own, said TIWA researcher Chen Hsiu-lien (陳秀蓮).

One way around the onerous fees would be for workers to be hired directly by Taiwanese employers, as Banayo acknowledges.

He said his office is promoting direct hiring and that there will be further talks between Taiwanese and Filipino officials on increasing the approach.

"Hopefully we will see much progress in that," he said.

At present, there are many obstacles to direct hiring, including the inability or lack of interest of smaller employers to spend time and money recruiting and vetting people in other countries.

Banayo agreed that the cumbersome paperwork involved in the direct hiring process can also be frustrating and prevent employers from using the service.

"We'll try our best to streamline those things, on our part," he said.

Resolving these issues is important, Banayo said, because migrant workers are important to Taiwan's economy and the number of Filipino workers in Taiwan is expected to increase in the future.

Taiwan has an aging population and will need foreign workers, while the Philippines has plenty of young people, he said.

For instance, although Taiwan has world-class agricultural technology, its farmers are aging and the second generation does not want to work on farms, Banayo said.

"So that is one area where Filipinos probably could help, in continuing the productivity of your farms," he said.