The Ministry of Labor is considering lifting a decade-long ban on Vietnamese domestic caretakers in response to an expected decrease in Indonesian migrant workers from 2017.
The plans drew criticism from migrant workers’ advocates, who accused the ministry of evading its responsibility for improving working conditions of domestic caretakers.
A report by the Chinese-language Apple Daily quoted Deputy Minister of Labor Chen I-min (陳益民) as saying that the ban could be lifted by June.
His remarks followed earlier comments on introducing workers from Myanmar to mitigate the expected shortfall.
Indonesia’s announcement late last month to gradually stop allowing its nationals to work in Taiwan as domestic caregivers has sent ripples through the nation, as Taiwan relies heavily on Indonesian workers to care for its elderly and disabled people.
As of January, among a total of more than 220,000 domestic caretakers from Southeast Asian countries employed by Taiwanese families, about 170,000 were from Indonesia, accounting for nearly 80 percent.
Vietnamese maritime workers and domestic caretakers were banned by the ministry in 2004 and 2005 respectively, due to a high absconding rate.
Minister of Labor Chen Hsiung-wen (陳雄文) said that occurrences of runaway workers among Vietnamese have decreased since Hanoi introduced stricter punishments last year.
He said the ministry is currently “keeping multiple options” open for new sources of migrant workers to replace those from Indonesia.
Taiwan International Workers’ Association researcher Wu Jing-ru (吳靜如) said that it was “shameful” for Taiwan to ignore demands from foreign governments to protect the labor rights of workers and instead “exploit new sources of cheap labor.”
“We all know that the Indonesian government stopped sending workers because its demands to improve the basic rights of Indonesian workers failed to materialize,” Wu said, adding that foreign caretakers in Taiwan almost never have days off and are required to pay high brokerage fees.
She said many migrant workers absconded because of harsh working conditions and urged the ministry to stop portraying runaway workers as the root of its problems.
Without reforms to guarantee vacation rights and adequate wages, absconding would likely remain common among migrant workers, Wu said, adding that brokerage fees for Vietnamese workers in Taiwan cost up to US$7,000 per person — the most expensive among all migrant worker-providing countries.