Taipei, Nov. 10 (CNA) The government has begun reviewing its immigration policy related to professional talent and migrant workers to address the shortage of skilled workers and manpower, Minister without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億) said Friday.
Most immigrants move to Taiwan through marriage or as dependent relatives because Taiwan maintains a relatively strict immigration policy, Lin said at a press conference at which the government outlined its approach to deal with workforce shortage issues.
"In view of the lack of professional talent and manpower in specific sectors, such as agriculture, fishing, and the long-term health care sector, the idea of having foreign nationals work in Taiwan and reside here permanently is being floated," Lin said.
Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) pledged that the government will present policies aimed at creating an "immigrant-friendly" environment.
Officials stressed at the press event that a shortage of workers remains a problem in Taiwan, and it could imperil its economic growth.
According to Deputy Labor Minister Liao Huei-fang (廖蕙芳), Taiwan had a shortage of 233,000 workers at the end of February, translating to a job vacancy rate of 3.01 percent.
"The job vacancy rate has been on the rise since 2015. The manufacturing sector had the biggest shortfall of 88,000 at the end of February and has been deeply troubled by the problem," she said.
As for professional talent, Kao Shien-quey (高仙桂), the deputy head of the National Development Council, said 73 percent of 1,005 employers polled in Taiwan felt that finding skilled talent in Taiwan was difficult, citing a ManpowerGroup survey.
Cabinet officials did not make any specific proposals on Friday to reform immigration policy, but Lai said the policy is to be reviewed. "We can't talk about attracting talent from abroad without looking at our immigration policy," he said.
To address the shortage of professionals, the government proposed amending the Income Tax Act and Company Act to give tax incentives to enterprises to help them compete for talent from abroad and retain talent at home.
The government also proposed amending the Immigration Act to loosen requirements for non-citizens and minor children of Taiwanese nationals born overseas to apply for residency.
For example, if amended, non-citizens living in Taiwan for 335 days in one year would be eligible to apply for residency, a slight relaxation of the current rule that they have to live in Taiwan continuously for a full year.
When asked by reporters, Kao would not say how many skilled professionals the government hoped to add.
"There are about 32,000 foreign professionals currently working in Taiwan, while Taiwan has seen an outflow of 60,000 Taiwanese in recent years, among a total of 720,000 Taiwanese working overseas," Kao said. "We hope that the measures can reverse the trend."
Regarding the shortage of manpower, Liao said the Labor Ministry has no plans to relax the rules that govern the recruitment of migrant workers because the "demand for migrant workers has not outpaced the quota available."
Liao attributed the labor shortfall in Taiwan's workforce to the low workforce participation of several groups at home, including youth aged 15 to 29, women, and people in the 45-64 age bracket.
The ministry will work with other agencies to help overcome the barriers facing the three groups, Liao said, citing as an example a bill to prevent age discrimination that is currently under consideration.
Liao said the ministry also intends to set up a mechanism to make wage rates in the labor market open to the public. "We hope that exposure of labor market information will help guide employers who are used to offering low wages to raise them to a reasonable level."
According to the ministry, the unemployment rate for Taiwanese youth is 8.9 percent, far higher than the 3.77 jobless rate seen nationally, and higher than 4.9 percent in Japan and 8.2 percent in the United States.
The labor force participation rate for women in Taiwan is 50.8 percent, lower than 56.8 percent in the U.S. and 52.1 percent in South Korea, and the rate of participation for people aged 45 to 64 is 62.4 percent, lower than 80.4 percent in Japan, 75 percent in South Korea and 72.1 percent in the U.S, the ministry said.