Likely wage hike for foreign helpers in Taiwan after 18-year freeze

PHOTO: The Straits Times

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Migrant domestic helpers will likely see their first pay raise in 18 years with Taiwan seeking an agreement over the scale of increase with countries where foreign workers largely come from, a labour official said yesterday.

Taiwan is looking to increase the monthly pay to NT$17,000 (S$740) for migrant domestic helpers from the current NT$15,840 that has remained unchanged for 18 years, according to the Ministry of Labor.

But the proposed increase has yet to meet the demands of some countries, such as the Philippines and Indonesia, from which Taiwan employers usually recruit domestic helpers, according to the Central News Agency.

These countries are asking for an increase to NT$17,500 monthly, threatening not to let their people come to work in Taiwan if the demand is not met, the CNA said.

Currently about 220,000 migrant domestic helpers are working in Taiwan, the CNA added.

Deputy Labor Minister Hao Feng-ming said a pay raise plan for migrant workers must take into consideration the accommodation and meal costs employers have to be responsible for.

Migrant workers might be given an equivalent of Taiwan's minimum wage at NT$20,008, but the accommodation and meal costs must be deducted from the sum, Hao said. Migrant workers are not covered by Taiwan's Labor Standards Act.

Another way is to directly increase the monthly pay to NT$17,000, the deputy minister added.

Hao said the government has been negotiating with the countries involved on an almost daily basis, but they have been very adamant that the sum be hiked to NT$17,500.

The ministry is inviting representatives from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand to a meeting later this month to try to seek an agreement, Hao said.

Hao said if an agreement fails to be reached, Taiwan might have to reduce its reliance on migrant workers or look for them from other countries.

If the increase is finalized, it will apply to all migrant domestic helpers recruited this year.

Those who are already working in Taiwan may need to negotiate with their employers to see if they can also enjoy a pay raise, the official said.