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Taiwan seeks solution to rising number of unaccounted-for migrant workers

Government record shows over 50,000 foreign workers overstaying their visas in Taiwan

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Unaccounted-for migrant workers arrested for leaving contract positions. 

Unaccounted-for migrant workers arrested for leaving contract positions.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Taiwanese government on Wednesday (Oct. 21) promised to come up with practical solutions for the overwhelming number of unaccounted-for migrant workers in the country.

According to Ministry of the Interior statistics, there are 51,087 undocumented foreign workers currently overstaying their visas in Taiwan. As the application process for foreign caregivers and other workers becomes more complicated due to the coronavirus pandemic, the problem of illegal workers in Taiwan has worsened, with many Taiwanese calling for an end to the loopholes in the system.

During a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan, Kuomintang legislator Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷) pointed out that there are at least 28,000 households in Taiwan with foreign caregivers. He said the Taiwanese employers would be greatly inconvenienced if caregivers left their contract positions and that the government should consider reducing the three-month wait time currently required to hire a new caregiver in such a scenario.

In response, Minister of Labor Hsu Ming-chun (許銘春) said the authorities are currently deliberating about an adjustment but that the Cabinet has the final say. She said the problem with a shortened waiting period is that the number of foreign workers will skyrocket if cases of migrant workers absconding from their jobs continue at the current rate, reported CNA.

Hsu also addressed Indonesia's controversial announcement that employers in Taiwan and 14 other countries will have to cover visa application and training fees and plane tickets for Indonesian workers starting next year. She said the Taiwanese government has voiced its opposition to this change, which it believes is unfair to hirers, reported UDN.

Deputy Interior Minister Chiu Chang-yueh (邱昌嶽) also proposed raising the minimum wage for migrant workers and allowing them to change employers freely to lower the chance of them running away. However, legislators opposed this suggestion and said it would only make the current system less stable, according to the Public Television Service (PTS).

Unaccounted-for migrant workers have long been an issue in Taiwanese society, with many employers expecting them to be more accepting of low wages. The National Immigration Agency (NIA) has urged Taiwanese brokers and employers not to perpetuate such violations, stressing that those caught hiring illegal workers will be fined up to NT$750,000 (US$26,168) and face a possible prison sentence.