TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Taiwan Higher Education Union (THEU) on Tuesday (July 20) called on Taiwan's education and labor ministries to extend their COVID relief subsidies to foreign students.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, the THEU stated that as part of the "Stimulus 4.0" (紓困4.0) package released by the Cabinet in June, the Ministry of Education (MOE) is offering emergency relief grants and rent subsidies for off-campus apartments among other measures to students and their family members impacted by the pandemic. In addition, the Ministry of Labor (MOL) is offering a NT$10,000 (US$350) living allowance to part-time workers, including students with financial difficulties.
However, the THEU pointed out that only Taiwanese students are eligible for these programs put forth by the MOE and MOL. In the case of the MOE subsidies, the students must have household registration as a citizen of Taiwan, while the MOL benefits are limited to Taiwanese nationals and the few foreign students who have obtained residency through marriage to a Taiwanese citizen.
Many international students at Taiwan's universities and colleges who have lived in the country for a long period of time have been severely impacted financially by the pandemic, according to the THEU. Yet, due to the numerous qualification restrictions, these students are not able to apply for any assistance at all.
The union stated that many instructors at various universities have reported receiving many messages from foreign students who have encountered financial hardships during the recent outbreak and Level 3 restrictions. One instructor who contacted the union said that they had received a letter from a Vietnamese student who said she had originally planned to save up funds needed for her next semester by working over the summer.
However, because of the outbreak and subsequent lockdown, she was unable to find any job opportunities at all. She says that her remaining money is not enough to cover her future living expenses, including rent, meals, insurance, and phone bill.
"She comes from a family in central Vietnam whose parents raised three children with a combined income of less than NT$20,000," said the instructor.
The union stressed that many international students in Taiwan face difficulties similar to those of the Vietnamese student. It then claimed that many other countries in the world are providing international students with the same assistance as students from their own country or even special measures, citing a subsidy of 100,000 yen (US$900) per student Japan is providing to both local and foreign students as an example.
The THEU asserted that the government's COVID relief policies should take everyone living in Taiwan who has been affected by the pandemic into account. It said that it should not matter whether a person is a foreign migrant worker, foreign student, or Taiwanese citizen, because they are are all "indispensable members of maintaining the overall status of the society."
The union emphasized that only by taking all people living in the country into account when devising such relief benefits can Taiwan truly live up to its epidemic prevention slogan: “one island, one life."