Mon, Jul 26, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Labor council says foreign-worker quotas could rise

AFP , TAIPEI

Taiwan is considering raising its ceiling on the number of foreign workers allowed to work here, despite the concerns of labour groups worried about an increase in the unemployment rate, it was reported yesterday.

A recommendation by the Council of Labor Affairs last week could see another 50,000 foreigners permitted to work in the country, the Chinese-language newspaper United Daily News said.

The council recommended that the total investment required by a factory to allow it to employ foreigners should be dropped to NT$50 million (US$1.48 million) from the present NT$200 million, the paper said.

The council is expected to announce its final decision on the matter soon.

Labor groups are concerned that Taiwan's official jobless rate edged up in June to 4.54 percent from 4.41 percent in May, spurred by a rise in the number of first-time job seekers.

But the council was not swayed by these figures, saying the unemployment rate peaked in 2002 when it hit a record 5.17 percent, the paper said.

Another factor was that Taiwanese nationals refused to take certain jobs, for example in the dyeing industry, and a lack of workers could force some factories to move out of Taiwan, most likely to China.

Should that happen, "more people would lose their jobs here," a council official said.

As of the end of April, manu-facturers employed 55 percent of the 298,480 foreigners working here, with many of the others employed as caretakers, maids and sailors.

Most foreigners working here are from Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The April figure was down from a peak of nearly 330,000 in mid-2001, before the council reduced labour import levels for manufacturing and construction to ease soaring unemployment.

Foreign workers were first allowed into Taiwan in 1989 to ease an acute labor shortage for public and private construction projects, but demand for them has shifted to labour-intensive manufacturing industries.

On average, foreigners in the manufacturing sector are paid about 80 percent of what local workers earn.

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