TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan is expected to reopen its doors this year to domestic helpers and fishing workers from Vietnam, after placing a ban on them more than 10 years ago.
Labour Minister Chen Hsiung-wen said Taiwan is "seriously" considering lifting the ban on Vietnamese migrant workers in the wake of Indonesia's vow to stop exporting its laborers.
If the negotiations between Taiwan and Vietnam go smoothly, the ban may be lifted next month at the earliest, according to the United Evening News.
Vietnamese laborers once formed the biggest group of migrant workers in Taiwan.
But Taiwan put in place the ban on Vietnamese fishing workers in May 2004 and then Vietnamese domestic helpers in January 2004 after Vietnamese runaway workers became a serious problem.
Since then, the numbers of Vietnamese workers in Taiwan have dropped sharply. As of the end of 2014, there were about 551,000 foreign laborers working in Taiwan, according the newspaper.
Of these migrant workers, 150,000 were Vietnamese, consisting of over 130,000 factory workers and less than 20,000 domestic helpers.
The number of Vietnamese domestic helpers was much smaller than that of Indonesians, at 174,000.
Taiwan and Vietnam last year started talks over reinstating fishing workers and domestic helpers after the latter showed improvements in preventing its laborers from running away from their employing countries.
But the talks stalled after Taiwanese investors suffered heavy losses in the anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam in May, according to the United Evening News.
The talks resumed after the Vietnamese government reached agreements with the Taiwanese investors over compensation schemes.
The paper said Vietnam is expected to send officials to Taiwan in April to make final confirmations for the renewed laborer imports.
Meanwhile, two ruling Kuomintang legislators are seeking law changes to allow foreign laborers to work longer in Taiwan.
Legislator Chiang Hui-chen has proposed that the maximum length of employment for foreign workers be extended to 15 years from the current 12.
Legislator Yang Yu-hsin agrees that foreign laborers should be allowed to stay longer than 12 years, but the law should not set a maximum length.
Yang said the law should be revised to allow the labour authorities to set the rules for extending the foreign laborers' employment beyond the 12-year period.
But some labour rights activists said allowing foreign laborers to work 15 years or more in Taiwan would become a problem as far as pensions are concerned.
The labour insurance law stipulates that any workers who have worked for 15 years or more are entitled to monthly retirement benefits, the activists said.
The labour insurance fund would come under extra burden if foreign workers were also given the retirement benefits, they said.