Taiwan Falls Short on Religious Freedom for Domestic Workers: Report

Taiwan Falls Short on Religious Freedom for Domestic Workers: Report
圖為在義大利舉行的彌撒儀式。Photo Credit: AP / 達志影像

What you need to know

Taiwanese authorities appear to have finally noticed that despite the protections for religious freedom enshrined in the Constitution, hundreds of thousands of domestic workers are still unable to attend religious services. Meanwhile, institutionalized discrimination remains rife in China.

A U.S. government report on global religious freedom highlights that hundreds of thousands of domestic workers in Taiwan are unable to attend regular religious services due to insufficient protections in labor laws.

The International Religious Freedom Report for 2015 released last week says that Taiwan’s 225,000 domestic service workers and caretakers are not covered by the related labor laws and therefore not legally guaranteed a weekly rest day.

“Due to this exclusion, many domestic workers were not able to attend religious services,” the report says, also noting that U.S. officials in Taiwan, non-government organizations and religious leaders have continued to lobby the government on the issue.

In response, Taiwan’s Deputy Minister of Labor Lin San-quei (林三貴) said that under a new law that is currently in drafting stage, domestic workers will be guaranteed at least one day off a week, state-run CNA reports.

According to estimates, 35% of Taiwanese consider themselves Buddhist and 33% Taoist. Still, about 80% of the population is thought to also believe in some form of traditional folk religion. According to the Falun Gong Society of Taiwan, Falun Gong membership exceeds 1 million and continues to grow.

However, Taiwan’s 582,000 migrant workers are primarily from Southeast Asia and differ in religious adherence from the general population.

“The largest single group of migrant workers is from Indonesia, with a population of approximately 236,000 persons who are largely Muslim. Migrant workers from the Philippines – numbering approximately 121,000 persons – are predominately Roman Catholic,” the report says.

Taiwan’s domestic workers are typically in-house helpers for elderly and play a crucial role in the nation's long-term elderly care system. Concerns over mistreatment and abuse of workers has led to protests in recent years.

China’s 'institutionalized discrimination'

Meanwhile, the report, which was authored by the U.S. State Department, is highly critical of religious freedom in China.

China, with a current population of about 1.4 billion people, had an estimated 100 million religious believers, 360,000 clergy, 140,000 places of worship, and 5,500 religious groups, according to a 2013 UN report.

According to the latest U.S. report, in 2015 adherents to registered and unregistered religious groups were physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed by the Chinese government.

“Religious and ethnic minority groups, such as Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims, experienced institutionalized discrimination throughout the country both because of their religious beliefs and their status as ethnic minorities with distinct languages and cultures,” it says.

In Xinjiang, western China, many hospitals and businesses would not provide services to women wearing veils, it says.

Despite provisions against discrimination based on religious belief in China’s labor laws, some Chinese employers openly discriminated against religious believers. The report points to a case where a Christian lawyer in Zhejiang was reportedly fired by his employer due to his religious activities, and many instances in Xinjiang where Muslims “faced discrimination in hiring, lost their positions, and were detained by authorities for praying in their workplaces.”

The U.S. says its officials “regularly urged government officials at the central and local levels to implement stronger protection for religious freedom and to release prisoners of conscience.”

Globally, the report shows that religious freedoms deteriorated in many countries in 2015.

“Around the world, governments continued to tighten their regulatory grip on religious groups, and particularly on minority religious groups and religions which are viewed as not traditional to that specific country,” it says.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole