In an effort to lower the unemployment rate among citizens, the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) yesterday said it would cut 30,000 foreign workers from the manufacturing, construction and technology industries this year.
The council has come under fire as the nation’s unemployment has continued to rise in recent months. Labor associations have staged a series of demonstrations calling for cuts in foreign labor and the council had said for months that it was mulling adjustments to foreign labor policies.
One of the goals this year is to keep the annual unemployment rate below 4.5 percent, CLA Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) said.
“If we ignore the financial crisis and don’t take any action, it is estimated that the unemployment rate will rise to 6 percent,” Wang said. “To keep [it] below 4.5 percent, we must provide jobs for 150,000 to 200,000 people.”
Starting in March, the council will temporarily stop accepting applications for foreign workers to work night shifts. The policy is expected to have the biggest impact on the high-tech industry, which relies the most on foreign workers for night shifts.
The council is also revising its foreign labor policies for major investment projects and non-high-tech manufacturing, she said, to allow companies to apply to rehire foreign workers once they have completed their three-year contract.
Companies are allowed to hire foreign workers for up to 35 percent of their workforce, but that figure will be cut to 20 percent.
As for the construction industry, Wang said the council would work with the Executive Yuan’s Public Construction Commission to prohibit foreign workers from filling positions that local workers are willing to take.
“We hope that local workers can take priority over foreign workers. Foreign workers should only do the work that local workers are unwilling to do,” Wang said.
“We aim to cut 30,000 foreign workers from the current foreign labor workforce, which is about 360,000 to 370,000 people. If we can cut 30,000 foreign workers, [it will help] keep the unemployment rate at below 4.5 percent,” she said.
Wang said she recognized that rising unemployment was not only a problem in blue-collar industries.
To reduce unemployment among white-collar workers, the council will expand its Industrial Manpower Investment Program to include the unemployed.
The program offers subsidies for job training and was originally only for on-the-job programs.
According to survey results released by the council yesterday, last year’s unemployment rate among workers aged 15 to 29 with a college degree or above was 9.33 percent.
That figure was about 5 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate recorded in November.
Wang said the unemployment rate was higher among those with higher education because “what [many of them] have learned is somewhat unrelated to the work they are doing.”
Those who cannot find employment should take the opportunity to seek additional training, she said.
The council is also setting up a “labor rights fund” next month to provide counseling and subsidies to workers whose disputes with their employers result in litigation.
This would include settlements and litigation over forced unpaid leave. The council has been criticized by labor associations and lawmakers for not taking action against companies that force employees to take unpaid leave.