Activists protest exclusion of foreign workers from Taiwan's minimum wage laws

The Jan.7 'Recognizing Non-Citizens' rally drew attention to possible amendments to nation's labor laws

The "Recognizing Non-Citizens" Rally.
The banner shows the crossed out character for slave (奴).

The "Recognizing Non-Citizens" Rally. The banner shows the crossed out character for slave (奴). (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – In Taipei on Jan. 7, a rally for the rights of migrant workers was held, called a rally for “Recognizing Non-Citizens” by the Taiwanese Central News Agency.

The marches have become bi-annual events in Taiwan, where migrant workers and local advocates take to the streets to campaign for better living conditions and equal rights for the large migrant population in Taiwan.

Most of the migrant workers in Taiwan come from Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, or Malaysia.

The event was organized by the Taiwan International Workers Association (TIWA) and the Migrant Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT). Organizers estimate 1,500 to 2,000 people came to participate in the event.

One major aim for activists this year was to draw attention to legislation which would decouple foreign migrant workers from the current minimum wage labor laws.

If passed, the legislation would mean separate standards for minimum wage, one for Taiwanese citizens and another for foreign laborers, under Taiwanese labor laws.

The rally began around 12:30 outside the Ministry of Labor, and began to move around 1 p.m.The demonstrators continued on to Ketagalan Boulevard, with activists holding a massive “anti-slavery” banner as they marched.

According to CNA, representatives from the Taiwan International Worker’s Association (TIWA) argue that without equal wages, the foreign labor force in Taiwan will be miserable, and Taiwan will lose its attractiveness to job seekers abroad.

Proponents of the legislation argue that without decoupling the foreign laborers’ wages, businesses that require large amounts of foreign labor will have to cut costs and may consider moving their factories and businesses overseas. In the long term, this may decrease work opportunities for an increasing number of laborers, and would prove especially disenfranchising for low skilled Taiwanese workers.

However, the activists also point out that the legislation is not the only issue of concern. Many assert that there are plenty of inequitable practices and unscrupulous employers in Taiwan whose business strategies rely on the exploitation and manipulation of cheap foreign workers.

(CNA Image)

Activists say more should be done on the part of the government to investigate, and end such unjust practices.

One issue that has been of major concern is the difficulty that foreign laborers have in switching employers, since by law foreign laborers are hosted by their employer, they have to receive the employers legal permission to seek work elsewhere.

In order to help solve these problems, the Ministry of Labor announced recently that it was establishing an office with the express purpose of providing foreign laborers advocacy in dealing with employers as well as advice and assistance in navigating Taiwan’s bureaucratic system and labor laws.

The Information Site of Foreign Worker Rights Defense website was launched on Jan. 1, 2018 to assist with such problems.