Undocumented caregivers in Taiwan present loophole in battle against coronavirus

Movement of such workers is hard to trace, complicating efforts to prevent virus from spreading

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(CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Undocumented foreign caregivers working in Taiwan may prove to be a loophole in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19), as the No. 32 confirmed case has been identified as an Indonesian national.

The worker, who contracted the novel virus while caring for case 27, has prompted concerns that disease-prevention efforts could be undermined due to the country’s lax rules on foreign caregivers. It is common practice for such workers to hop from one hospital to another under arrangements made by illegal brokers in order to meet demand, reported the Liberty Times.

Legal caregivers — those having acquired a work permit in Taiwan, be they local or foreign — are paid NT$2,000 (US$66) a day on average and are mandated to work a certain number of days a month. Those without permits, however, can be hired for NT$1,500 a day on a more flexible basis.

This is a systemic problem arising from a certain rigidity inherent in Taiwan’s institutions with regards to foreign-caregiver applications, and unaccounted-for migrant workers have become a major source of labor, wrote the report. The loophole may complicate efforts to trace the movements and whereabouts of suspected cases of coronavirus and increase infection risks.

According to the National Immigration Agency, as of January, Taiwan had reported a total of 48,545 unaccounted-for migrant workers since 1990. Indonesian and Vietnamese nationals comprise the lion’s share, with 565 and 554, respectively, recorded in January alone.