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Taipei migrant workers demand abolition of exploitive broker system

Hundreds protest outside Indonesian, Vietnamese, Philippine representative offices

CNA photo.

CNA photo.

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Approximately 100 migrant workers protested outside the representative offices of three Southeast Asian countries at 11 a.m. on Sunday (Nov. 3), demanding a statement on intergovernmental direct recruitment.

The Hope Workers’ Center, the Taiwan’s International Workers’ Association (TIWA), and other labor groups and migrant workers protested in front of the Indonesian, Philippine, and Vietnamese representative offices in Taipei. They accused their home governments of long-term inaction regarding “private agents,” often known as employment brokers.

The Indonesian government stipulates limits fees charged by the industry to between NT$30,000 and NT$40,000 (US$1,000-1,300), and they must be paid in loans. Taiwan has previously proposed a “government-to-government direct employment” scheme with the Indonesian government, which declined despite having already signed a similar agreement with South Korea, according to China Times.

The demonstrators insisted that the Ministry of Labor abolish the broker system to prevent the malicious exploitation of migrant workers. Brokers are known to charge many migrant workers exorbitant fees, monopolize the job market and workers' access to information, and deceive and treat them with violence.

TIWA commissioner Betty Chen (陳容柔) told CNA that job opportunities for migrant workers are now largely monopolized by private agents, even at official employment services stations.

According to the report, discrepancies exist between the fees charged to migrants from different countries and for different types of work. The cases that receive TIWA assistance are charged "purchase fees" ranging from NT$20,000 to NT$80,000.

Taiwan’s Employment Service Law of 2016 expressly stipulates that no purchase fee should be charged. However, brokers often charge fees anyway through means such as false names, missing receipts, and cash-only payments.

On Saturday, the Ministry of Labor attempted to facilitate a resolution through a discussion involving employers, brokers, and migrant groups. However, members of the latter strongly objected to suggestions that brokers handle contract renewals and charge for job transferrals.

Chen told CNA that the purpose of today’s protests was to see if the governments of the migrants’ countries of origin would release statements on the issue of government-to-government direct employment. It is also hoped that the Ministry of Labor will "toughen up" and abolish the broker system instead of relying on it.