Migrant workers’ rights groups gathered yesterday outside the Ministry of Labor (MOL) in Taipei to protest against the government’s plan to hire an additional 28,000 migrant workers without addressing underlying issues such as poor labor conditions.

To address labor shortage, the MOL announced a plan to ease hiring qualifications and bring in more migrant workers for sectors like manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and caregiving. The majority of Taiwan’s migrant workers come from Southeast Asia.

But civic groups argue that this plan not only fails to resolve the labor shortage but also exacerbates exploitation.

“While the government claims there is a labor shortage, it is also laying off a significant number of migrant workers,” said Hsu Wei-tung, a coordinator for the Taiwan International Workers’ Association (TIWA). “Many migrant workers are left unemployed after being dismissed and are forced into becoming undocumented workers.”

Hsu also highlighted the financial struggles faced by some workers, who are compelled to work illegally due to their inability to afford brokerage fees. He urged the Ministry of Labor to abolish the brokerage system, which allows private brokers to charge fees that place an unjust burden on migrant workers.

TIWA researcher Chen Hsiu-lien pointed out that in the construction sector, one of the main issues is the wage disparity between local workers and migrant workers, leading to labor disputes. She said allowing construction companies to hire more migrant workers before improving labor conditions would essentially be a means for them to “cut costs.”

Caregivers face distinct challenges as well. Chen said that they often have to work overtime, with employers occasionally withholding their wages. “Their salary is lower than the minimum wage, and they do not receive overtime pay or fixed vacations. Their mobility is often restricted too,” she added.

In response, the MOL stated that there is a societal consensus to adjust migrant worker policies. The ministry vowed to strengthen management review for employers to ensure the rights of migrant workers are protected. 

Despite the controversy, MOL officials said that the plan is scheduled to take effect in mid-June.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou (@thenewslensintl)

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