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US slams Taiwan labor rights
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-02-28 07:31 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan’s labor policies have come under fire from the United States State Department’s human rights report for 2013 for low wages, overtime and abuses of foreign laborers’ rights, reports said Friday.

The US document mentioned the low wages for Taiwanese workers, including the fact that the average wage fell back to levels not seen since 15 years ago. In 2013, the average monthly wage stood at NT$44,739 (US$1,476).

In addition, employers often broke the law by forcing workers into overtime. Since the Ministry of Labor only had 294 inspectors at its disposal, it was unable to form a significant deterrent to labor rights abuses, the report said.

Labor Vice Minister Chen Yi-min responded by saying that changes in the economic structure would result in upgrades leading to wage hikes, while the ministry was also assisting laborers in improving their skills and adapting them to changing requirements.

He said the number of inspectors would be increased, while a special department would use prevention, inspection, compensation and reconstruction to safeguard workers’ rights.

Chen said that in recent years, the government had already changed the way in which laborers were recruited from overseas. The system of middlemen who could exploit workers financially had largely been opened up to reviews and partly replaced with direct overseas recruitment, Chen said.

A total of 65 percent of Taiwanese workers now enjoyed a two-day weekend off, while a new program would encourage employers to show more respect for their employee’s leisure days. More time off would increase worker productivity, Chen said.

In its chapter about Taiwan, the US State Department report said that “principal human rights problems reported during the year were labor exploitation of migrant workers by fishing companies, exploitation of domestic workers by brokerage agencies, and official corruption.”

On the final topic, the report said that as of May 2013, 573 officials were indicted, including 39 high-ranking officials, without any reports of impunity.

In the case of the fishing workers, Filipino nationals on Taiwan-flagged vessels operating out of Singapore were found to be provided with substandard food and little medical care while having to work 18 to 20 hours a day.

The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 were drawn up by the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and officially released on Thursday.

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