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Talk of the Day -- Army of migrant workers approaches 500,000
Central News Agency
2013-12-20 11:04 PM
The number of foreign workers has increased significantly since the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) began to ease restrictions on new hires in the manufacturing sector three years ago. The growth rate has sped up further since March this year when the CLA launched a new mechanism that allows manufacturing companies to hire more migrants workers if they pay additional contributions to an employment stabilization fund. Under the scheme, manufacturers can hire 5 to 15 percent more foreign workers in addition to their original quotas, but must contribute an additional NT$3,000 to NT$5,000 to the employment stabilization fund for each additional hire. Before March, the number of migrant laborers in the sector used to increase by 1,000 to 2,000 a month. In January, the number saw a rare decrease of 1,877, according to CLA statistics. The increased rate has accelerated since the new mechanism took effect, with the number of foreign workers increasing by 6,036 in November, nearly three times the increase of 2,238 posted in April, CLA data shows. If the current trend continues, Taiwan's army of migrant workers would break the 500,000 mark by next March or April, labor market analysts said. The following are excerpts of a special report in the Friday edition of the United Evening News on growth in Taiwan's migrant labor force: It took 10 years for the number of migrant workers in Taiwan to grow from 300,000 to 400,000, but it needs only three years for the number to reach a new milestone of 500,000. According to CLA figures, the number of foreign workers stood at 304,000 in 2001 and increased to 425,000 in 2011. As of the end of November, the number of migrant laborer had hit 484,367, with 275,288 working in the manufacturing sector and 209,079 in caregiving and social services. The number marked an increase of 39,000 from the same period of last year. In the past, the number of migrant workers tended to increase by 20,000 at most. This year would see a rise of over 40,000, more than double the previous average. The number of migrant workers shrank by 20,000 in 2009 when a global financial crisis took its toll. Does the nearly 100,000 increase in the number of foreign workers over the past three years signal a strong recovery of Taiwan's economy? Government officials and labor rights activists are divided on their views on the possible impact of a rapid increase in the migrant labor. CLA officials said optimistically that the spike in migrant labor has not affected local people's job opportunities, citing steady expansion of Taiwan's workforce as well as stable unemployment rate. Chen Su-hiang, spokeswoman for a migrant workers alliance, said the sharp increase in migrant workers could mainly be attributed to local employers' reluctance to raise wages. "Local manufacturers are reluctant to offer higher pay to hire well-trained Taiwanese workers and an influx of migrant workers would eventually affect local people's job opportunities and hinder increase of wage levels," Chen said. She slammed bosses of manufacturing companies for their frequent complaints of labor shortages and threats to relocate abroad. As a result, the government has often yielded to their pressure and ease restrictions on hiring foreign laborers. Labor Affairs Minister Pan Shih-wei said he looks forward to seeing local manufacturers upgrade their technological level and improve work conditions to reduce reliance on cheap foreign labor. (Dec. 20, 2013) (By Sofia Wu)
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