Sat, Nov 11, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Immigrants key to labor shortage: Lai

SCHOOLS:The nation could allow foreign students to attend senior-high schools, allowing them to acquire the necessary skills before issuing a work visa, Lai said

By Lee Hsin-fan  /  Staff reporter, with CNA

Premier William Lai, right, speaks at a news conference at the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday about plans to address a shortage of workers.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

Premier William Lai (賴清德) yesterday stressed the importance of immigrants in addressing the nation’s shortage of workers, as the Cabinet revealed its plan for the immigration of workers from nations targeted by the government’s New Southbound Policy.

Lai made the remarks in the last of five news conferences held this week to address the nation’s “five industrial shortages” — land, water, electricity, talent and workers.

“It is impossible to talk about talent recruitment without touching upon immigration policy,” Lai said, adding that the Cabinet would discuss how to create a friendly immigration environment before revealing its new policy.

Most of the nation’s immigrants obtain their status through marriage or a biological relationship, which is rare internationally, Minister Without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億) said.

“So we must consider the perspective of how to get the type of talented people the nation needs to stay when we devise a new immigration policy,” Lin said.

The tentative plan is to implement a labor immigration program to attract talented workers from the 18 nations targeted by the New Southbound Policy — the 10 ASEAN nations, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, New Zealand and Australia.

Singling out the agricultural, fishing and long-term care sectors, which he said severely lack workers, Lin said the nation could allow foreign students to attend senior-high schools or colleges, allowing them to acquire the necessary employment and language skills before issuing them a work visa.

“If they prove to be law-abiding citizens and fit the needs of a certain industry, we should let these people migrate to Taiwan and permanently live here,” Lin said.

Students from the target nations could study at schools that have the necessary faculty and equipment while interning at farms and farmers’ associations, Lin said.

The nation’s fishing industry employs more than 1,000 Chinese workers and 20,000 from Southeast Asia, but they often leave, taking their skills with them, Lin said.

The problem facing the long-term care industry is that the government needs to think about how to protect the rights of foreign caretakers, most of whom are skilled workers allowed to work in Taiwan for up to 14 years.

“We have started deliberating how to transform short-term employment to long-term employment and immigration. Our goal is to replace the importation of foreign workers with a coherent immigration policy,” Lin said, adding that the policy shift could also help reduce the numbers of foreign workers who abscond.

The Executive Yuan plans to retain talented people by amending the Income Tax Act (所得稅法) to lower the ceiling on personal income taxes from 45 to 40 percent and offer other tax incentives.

As of February, local industries reported a shortage of 233,000 workers, Lai said.

The Cabinet plans to increase the labor force participation rate by amending laws to increase the chances of people finding employment, he said.

Deputy Minister of Labor Liao Huei-fang (廖蕙芳) said the ministry is holding public hearings about its draft employment act for the middle to senior aged population and would send it to the Executive Yuan for review as soon as possible.

Lai also stressed the importance of profit-sharing, calling on companies to increase the starting salaries of their employees.

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