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Minister rules out separate minimum wages for local, foreign workers
Central News Agency
2014-08-27 11:06 PM
Taipei, Aug. 27 (CNA) Taiwan will not consider setting different minimum wage levels for local and foreign workers, as this will tarnish the country's image in the international community, new Labor Minister Chen Hsiung-wen said Wednesday. "There is no country with a minimum wage system that makes a distinction between local and foreign workers," he said in an interview with CNA. While it is not possible for Taiwan to revoke the minimum wage system, it is out of the question to set different levels for foreign workers, said Chen, who assumed office as labor minister on Aug. 22. Such a move would hamper Taiwan's efforts to sign free trade agreements with other countries and mar its reputation in the international community, he said. Chen, a former deputy mayor of Taipei City, has been tackling the thorny issue of the country's minimum wage as one of his first tasks as labor minister. Citing recent sharp increases in food prices, labor groups have been urging the government to raise the minimum wage, which is currently NT$115 (US$3.84) per hour and NT$19,273 per month. Food prices rose by an annual 3.84 percent in the first seven months of the year and by 4.27 percent year-on-year in July, according to government statistics. The labor groups have also noted that Taiwan achieved better-than-expected quarterly economic growth of 3.74 percent in the second quarter. The business sector, however, has been arguing that the government should only consider a minimum wage hike if Taiwan's consumer price index (CPI) rises by at least an annual 3 percent. This was the recommendation made last year by a minimum wage review committee convened by the Ministry of Labor, the business sector pointed out. The business representatives therefore boycotted a meeting of the committee on Aug. 25. Chen, however, has scheduled another meeting for Aug. 29, saying it is necessary in light of the sharp changes in the CPI, gross domestic product and prices of daily necessities over the past year. He said Wednesday that he hopes both labor and industry can sit down for a calm discussion on the minimum wage issue. Labor groups and the business sector are also at odds on the barometer that should be used to determine when to raise the minimum wage, with the former favoring "economic growth rate and CPI," and the latter recommending "minimum living standards and dependency ratio," Chen noted. He said that over the past six months, the prices of pork, chicken and eggs have been rising steadily and the government has also noted increases in the prices of products like detergents, milk formula and flour. "We are very much aware of the prices of commodities," the minister said. (By Chang Ming-hsuan and Elizabeth Hsu)
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