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August 1995, Volume 2, Number 8

Taiwan: Foreign Workers to Get Equal Pay

Taiwan's Council of Labor Affairs announced that, after the country joins the World Trade Organization, foreign workers will be put on the same footing as local workers. Currently, the CLA sets a minimum wage that employers must pay to foreign workers that is typically less than the wage paid to local workers.

The CLA asserted that the number of foreign workers imported will be cut in half unless the employers and foreign labor agents take responsibility for the growing number of runaway foreign laborers.

Taiwan's National Police Administration reported that 10,000 foreign workers--about five percent of the 220,000 foreign workers in the country-- have abandoned their legal jobs, either to switch to a higher-wage job than they were assigned at entry, or because their two-year work permits were about to expire. Runaways are expected to increase as the two-year work permits granted to them in 1993 expire. In 1992, Taiwan required some foreign workers to depart, including some who had been legally in the country for more than five years.

The Council is considering bypassing employment recruiters and having employers hire workers directly from foreign countries. It is also considering an increase in the current maximum three-year prison term for illegal alien workers. In July, the government set up two telephone hotlines for local people to report runaway foreign workers.

There are estimated to be at least 25,000 illegal alien workers in Taiwan, making illegals equivalent to about 10 percent of legal workers. The Ministry of Justice announced on June 19 a crackdown of Chinese overstayers, many of whom work in construction. The immigration department will also try to deter illegal entrants who sail from the Chinese mainland or enter through a third country such as Macao or Vietnam.

On July 14, the Council of Labor Affairs announced that more than 4,000 foreign workers would be allowed into Taiwan to work in six manufacturing industries. COLA statistics showed that the manufacturing industries had an employment shortfall of some 86,000 workers in 1993, and that number had dropped to 63,000 as of September of 1994.

"Taiwan opens hotlines for locals to report escaped foreign workers," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, July 17, 1995. Debbie Kuo, "4,000 More Foreign Laborers to be Allowed into Taiwan," Central News Agency, July 14, 1995. "Fear of Runaways Sparks Labor Council to Threaten Import Ban," China Economic News Service, July 6, 1995. "Taiwan: Labor Conditions," China Economic News Service, July 5, 1995. "Foreign Workers flee Taiwan employers to avoid returning home," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, July 3, 1995. "Taipei to Intensify crackdown on overstaying mainland Chinese," BBC, June 23, 1995. "Taiwan: CLA Claims Foreign Workers to get Equal Treatment after WTO," China Economic News Service June 13, 1995. Business Taiwan, June 12, 1995.