The legislature is reviewing a draft foreign professional recruitment and employment bill. There has been a small, yet distracting, controversy and a great deal of anxiety about a minor proposal that would allow companies to take on foreign interns within two years of their graduation.
Opponents say this will open the floodgates to overseas workers stealing lower-salaried jobs in the name of internships.
These fears are unfounded and very far from the true goal and impact of the proposals.
For one, interns can only be employed in certain sectors and, as the Ministry of Labor has said, the small number of interns will have a minuscule effect on the nation’s employment rate.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Karen Yu (余宛如) has said that, under current regulations, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — prior to starting up his social media platform — would not have made it in.
Former Sunflower movement leader Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) questioned this logic on Facebook, saying that there would be other options for talented individuals to legally enter the nation.
Overseas workers are avoiding Taiwan because of long-stagnant salaries and concerns about being treated as slaves.
The preamble to the draft refers to an Oxford Economics report entitled Global Talent 2021, which concludes that, because of Taiwan’s aging demographic and the competitive international environment draining much of its talent, the nation is on course for one of the largest deficits between growth in demand and supply of talent in the world by 2021.
It also cites an International Institute for Management Development report that ranked Taiwan 24th out of 61 countries in terms of competitiveness, demonstrating the need to strengthen the recruitment of foreign professional workers.
The clause about interns is really not the point.
The more substantial proposals in the draft aimed at attracting more professional workers would ease many concerns that could scare off professional and skilled workers considering coming to Taiwan, and possibly staying long-term, with either a family or the intention of starting one in Taiwan. They would also go a long way to imparting a perception of belonging, of inclusion and of stability.
The proposals include streamlining residency requirements, such as issuing all-in-one “gold cards” incorporating work permit, residency permit and multiple-entry visa; the ability to engage in creative employment and artistic endeavors without requiring permission from sponsoring employers; teacher retirement guarantees for those working in state schools; immediate inclusion in national insurance and national health insurance programs, and the ability to apply for permanent residency, for spouses and non-adult children; allowing adult children under certain conditions to be able to apply to work in Taiwan; state pensions for foreign professionals holding a permanent residence permit; granting longer stay permits for those seeking employment; and certain tax breaks.
The real impact of this on the economy would far outstrip any concerns about the “theft” of low-salaried jobs.
With increased innovation and competitiveness would come, hopefully, more wealth. More wealth would lead to job creation throughout the economy, increase salaries and therefore make Taiwan a more attractive place for overseas workers, enhanced by the growing multicultural and inclusive community in the country.
It is worthwhile bearing in mind the long-term economic and demographic benefits of a policy. Minor aspects need to be considered and tweaked, but the government should not risk failing to see the wood for the trees.
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