Vietnamese workers may be barred from Taiwan

Vietnamese workers may be barred from Taiwan
Residents ride past the damaged Taiwanese-owned Alhonga factory in Vietnam's southern Binh Duong province May 16, 2014.

TAIPEI - Amid rising concerns over escalating anti-China unrest and damages to Taiwan-invested assets in Vietnam, the Ministry of Labor (MOL) yesterday announced that it may consider enacting an across-the-board halt to admitting Vietnamese migrant workers.

Labor Minister Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) stated that the halt on admitting Vietnamese migrant workers is being considered and will be implemented when the need arises, while fielding questions from the Legislative Yuan's Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee (衛環委員會).

Pan remarked that as Vietnamese migrant workers have long showed a penchant for absconding from their duties and employers, governing bodies in 2005 ruled to exclude them from being employed as household employees, a limitation that still stands today. Pan stated that current limitations will be expanded to bar the hiring of all Vietnamese migrant workers as needed.

According to Pan, the decision on whether or not to enact an across-the-board ban on Vietnamese migrant workers will be based on ongoing negotiations on damages compensation between Taiwan and Vietnam, adding that current national security conditions do not warrant such a move.

Barring of Migrant Workers as Sanctions

Previously, the government had on numerous occasions used the barring of migrant workers as sanctions aiming to resolve disputes with the laborer's country of origin. The government last year initiated a three-month freeze on admission of all Filipino migrant workers over a fatal shooting at sea that resulted in the death of a Taiwanese fishing ship captain and the destruction of his vessel. Following the move, the Philippines issued an official apology to Taiwan, with a number of involved Philippine Coast Guard personnel facing murder charges. In 2003, Chen Chu (陳菊), the then-Minister of the Council of Labor Affairs, had barred admittance of Thai migrant workers over Thailand's refusal to issue her a visa required for a state visit.

Currently, Taiwan is Vietnam's largest importer of migrant workers, followed by Japan. The number of migrant workers in Taiwan is estimated at 129,403, among which 10,000 are employed in various industries, with about 20,000 employed as household staff prior to the 2005 ban on hiring Vietnamese household workers.

The number of foreign migrant workers residing in Taiwan has been climbing, breaching the 500,000 benchmark in March. Indonesian workers are the most numerous at 215,960, followed by Vietnam's 129,403, followed by the Philippines' 3,391.

Most notably, Pan yesterday stated that Taiwan's rising reliance on foreign migrant workers is not the cause of stagnating wage levels, but a sign of the spirited growth across local industries and economic growth more generally.

Pan explained that when hiring foreign migrant workers, employers are required to hire a portion of local workers, in addition, businesses have been creating higher paying positions for local workers. Pan urged his detractors to take a more holistic view of the causes of Taiwan's stagnant wage growth and not fixate on the employment of foreign migrant workers.

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