Wed, May 01, 2013 - Page 12 News List

The right to rest

One expat hopes to film migrant workers as they journey from the Philippines to Taiwan, to raise awareness of harsh labor conditions that force many to drop off the grid

By Ian Bartholomew  /  Staff Reporter

Although the Taiwan government has made some effort to remedy the situation with the creation of avenues such as the Direct Hiring Service Center in 2011, Wolfgram’s own experience suggests that these services are not easily accessible to the most vulnerable among the migrant worker community, as many cannot use computers or do not have access to cell phones. Labor brokers remain the predominant channel through which workers find employment, and the very nature of this business, in Wolfgram’s view, perpetuates some of the worst abuses.

“Taiwanese employers want to get the best deal they can. For the brokers, this is a business, and they want to sell you their service, so they will tell you what the ‘product’ has to offer. ‘They are living at your home, it’s yours on demand.’ And that is a huge selling point for Taiwanese. This is the cause of the problem, because they are given this sense that the migrant workers really can do all these tasks and they may not have the judgment to say, ‘Actually this is wrong.’ They just view it as, ‘This is what I bought,’” Wolfgram said.

Wolfgram wants to make additional trips to the Philippines and understand where the workers come from, what Taiwan brings to their society, the application process at different agencies and following them up at a later stage with their experience in Taiwan, so as to give a more comprehensive picture of the whole process.

Wolfgram is currently raising the NT$150,000 via the Web site Kickstarter (project name: “I Have it Maid”). He is also working with a number of NGOs and churches. Additional information about the project, including how to make a donation, can be found at

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