20,000 jobless migrants per year wait for work:
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A civic group criticized the government yesterday over what it called a misguided policy that has resulted in 20,000 migrant workers per year waiting in Taiwan for new jobs.
The Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT) denounced the Council of Labor Affairs' (CLA) decision to allow the so-called "3D (dirty, dangerous, difficult) industries" to hire workers directly from abroad.
According to the MENT, since the policy was put into effect in October 2007, about 13,600 new workers have been recruited from abroad, leaving thousands of migrant workers already in Taiwan in financial straits.
Most of these migrant workers, who live in hospices operated by the
government or non-governmental organizations, were forced to leave their
original jobs either because they were ill treated by previous employers, or the factories they worked for were shut down, the MENT stated in a press release.
If these workers, most of whom are from Southeast Asian countries, do not find employment within two months, they will be repatriated, according to the statement. Some of them may run away and try to find new jobs, illegal in most cases, before they could be sent back to their countries, as have no money to repay their debts, it added.
Most migrant workers in Taiwan start out with debts, on average, of US$7,000 to US$8,000 in employment brokerage fees, the MENT stated.
"If these workers cannot find new employers, they would have no choice but run away or return to their home countries heavily in debt," said Wang Wen-shiou, director of the Labor Concern Center of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, in the southern port city of Kaohsiung.
Asked in a telephone interview why Taiwan employers prefer to import new workers rather than hire those already in Taiwan, Ku Yu-ling, chairperson of the Taiwan International Workers' Association, explained that "brokers make more profit by bringing in new workers from abroad than by placing those already in Taiwan."
"I would never be able to repay my debts if I do not find a job in Taiwan," said a 25 year-old Vietnamese woman, who first came to Taiwan to work in a factory. When the factory closed down, she was transferred to a Catholic center where she is now awaiting new employment.
Another Vietnamese immigrant said he was fired from his job because he refused to work 16 hours a day for an eight-hour wage.
"We are asking the CLA to change the regulations on hiring foreign workers, and to encourage Taiwanese employers to give priority to people who are already in the country and waiting for new jobs," Wang said.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, about 358,000 foreigners work in Taiwan, most of whom are from Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. The MENT is an umbrella organization of about a dozen of non-governmental organizations nationwide that advocate migrant worker rights.