Tue, Dec 10, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Domestic workers need protection

By Chi Hui-Jung 紀惠容

As Taiwan has become an “aged society,” many people face the issue of having to care for elderly family members, while according to Ministry of Health and Welfare data, more than 400,000 families in Taiwan have at least one disabled family member at home.

Providing care for disabled people is difficult, and Taiwanese should be grateful for the approximately 244,000 migrant workers, known as “migrant domestic workers,” who help families with disabled family members, taking up the heavy burden and responsibility of caring.

These migrant workers — many of them mothers — leave behind children and families in their home countries and come all the way to Taiwan from Indonesia, Vietnam or the Philippines.

Working for an unfamiliar family, most of these domestic helpers struggle alone, starting their day with cleaning, cooking, helping their employers bathe, turning over the bed-ridden, feeding them, assisting them on the toilet, accompanying them to hospital and much more.

They often describe their job with self-mockery, saying that they had to gamble on fate, which is the only thing they can blame when encountering an unkind employer.

Foreign caregivers are the voiceless and silent “housemaids.” Yet how could Taiwan, a nation that is proud of its human rights, allow “fate” to determine the situation for migrant domestic workers?

The Ministry of Labor’s Workforce Development Agency has conducted research into the situation of migrant domestic workers, but every article it publishes takes the employers’ perspective.

Instead of talking with migrant workers, the researches only interview the employers. To understand the inner voice and situation of migrant domestic workers, the Garden of Hope Foundation conducted a small-scale research project in June, distributing a questionnaire on the Internet and interviewing domestic workers face-to-face.

Domestic workers who were given time off or had smartphones could freely fill in the questionnaire, which investigates their labor rights. The foundation received 510 valid samples.

An analysis of the questionnaire shows that 29.61 percent of domestic workers are still paid less than NT$17,000 per month — including base salary and overtime pay — before agencies’ service fee, insurance and other payments are deducted. This is below the legally stipulated basic monthly salary of NT$17,000 for migrant domestic workers.

The most saddening fact revealed by the survey is that 84.31 percent of immigrant care workers have been providing care alone for an extended period of time without being able to find any other caregivers to share the work with so they can rest.

In addition, 39.02 percent said they were unable to rest for eight consecutive hours without interruption. During the three months prior to the survey, March to May, 28.43 percent of immigrant caregivers did not get a single day off, while 17.6 percent only had one day off and 37.45 percent had two to three days off. Only 17.06 percent had more than four days off.

Migrant domestic workers are in a high-pressure, labor-intensive work environment that can constitute exploitation.

People should put themselves in the shoes of migrant workers and start thinking about what the response would be were a Taiwanese to face such treatment.

Could Taiwanese endure such a labor-intensive, high-pressure job, working in an environment where every member of the family issues orders that are difficult to refuse? This kind of situation can make people ill.

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