Fri, Sep 28, 2012 - Page 1 News List

More foreign workers may be let in to help economy

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

The government is planning to relax restrictions on the recruitment of foreign workers to help revive the economy, an official who oversees a mechanism to coordinate economic stimulus plans said yesterday.

Minister Without Portfolio Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔), who leads a Cabinet-level task force to devise a response to the global economic situation, said the Cabinet was in talks with the Council of Labor Affairs about the relaxation plan.

A package currently being formulated includes ideas such as the exclusion of migrant workers from the minimum wage as stipulated in the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) and allowing certain enterprises to hire more foreign workers, Kuan said.

Council of Labor Affairs Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄), who offered her resignation on Wednesday over a Cabinet decision not to increase the minimum monthly wage, has repeatedly expressed her opposition to relaxing restrictions on foreign workers.

In an interview with the Chinese-language United Evening News yesterday, Wang said she had made three demands to Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) when she offered to resign: that the minimum wage increase take effect next year as scheduled, that migrant workers be entitled to the minimum wage and that the percentage of foreign workers allowed per company remain the same.

According to the newspaper, Wang said she was most concerned about the idea to deprive migrant workers of the right to the nation’s minimum wage.

If the policy is carried out, it would not only negatively affect local workers, but also render Taiwan unfit as a partner for free-trade agreements (FTA), she said.

Taiwan has been excluded from the international community for too long and is not considering that labor laws that defend workers’ rights and prevent the exploitation of migrant laborers must be included in an FTA, Wang said.

If Taiwan, an export-oriented economy heavily reliant on original equipment manufacturing, faces order cancelations because of international labor law violations, “the fallout could be immense,” she said.

“I don’t understand how people could be unaware of the consequences,” she added.

Chen on Wednesday agreed to Wang’s proposal that the minimum monthly wage be raised from NT$18,780 to NT$19,047, but only when one of two conditions is met: GDP grows by more than 3 percent for two quarters in a row, or the unemployment rate drops below 4 percent for two consecutive months.

With regard to the rules governing the recruitment of migrant workers, Kuan said that a proposal to raise the permitted ratio of foreign workers in an enterprise to 40 percent of the total workforce is being considered by the task force.

Under the current five-tier system, the percentage of foreigners hired by Taiwanese firms cannot exceed 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent of its total workforce depending on the sector, with the highest threshold applied to electroplating, forging, dyeing-and-finishing and casting in the manufacturing sector.

Kuan said the Cabinet is mulling allowing businesses to have up to 40 percent of their workforce be foreigners as an incentive to encourage China-based Taiwanese businesspeople to relocate their businesses to Taiwan and boost investments in state construction projects.

If restrictions on foreign workers were relaxed, enterprises could be required to provide a certain number of job opportunities for local workers for each foreign worker it hires, Kuan said.

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