Around 500 foreign workers marched in the rain in a rally yesterday in Taipei demanding that the Council of Labor Affairs (勞委會) give them better working conditions and employment laws.
There are roughly 300,000 foreign migrant workers from Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam in Taiwan. They are sometimes reported to be victims of poor treatment by their employers.
The rally, staged by the Taiwan International Workers Association, marched from Taipei Main Station to the CLA offices.
The TIWA requested that the R.O.C. government abolish the current broker system, allow workers to form unions, cancel the six-year working right limit, ease the procedure for workers in transferring to other employers and establish laws protecting household caregivers. The last is seen as their main request.
Professor Wako Asato, research fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, which specializes in migration said yesterday that foreign laborers working as caregivers will increase in the coming years.
Asato has observed foreign migrant workers' migration in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. Asato explained that Taiwan's need for foreign workers has switched from economic to demographic.
"There is a growing need for caregivers in Taiwan because there are more and more old people. More than half of aged people here are taken care of by foreign caretakers," Asato said.
Asato said that in the past, Taiwan needed large numbers of infrastructure construction workers for economic development, thus it imported foreign migrant workers.
"However, the need for foreign workers has changed. They are now more needed in households because one foreign caregiver costs half the price of a Taiwanese one," Asato said.
Asato suggested redefining foreign migrant workers's role in an aging society, since there are so many foreigners working as caregivers, they should be included in some elderly care system which could protect them from possible exploitation.
Long-time workers' right activist, Father Peter O'Neill from Chungli, a city 70 kilometers south of Taipei, said that caregivers are often work intensively, and are deprived of their own life.
"They sometimes only have two days off a month," O'Neill said.
Father O'Neill said that he intended to bring as many as 350 Thai and Filipino workers to the march, but only 200 came in the end because of bad weather.