Sun, Jul 20, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Chen puts workers on government's list of top priorities


President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said in his weekly televised address yesterday that workers form the basis of Taiwan's development and that the government will take care of them.

According to his plan, the president said, the government will achieve the goal of helping more than 97,000 unemployed workers find jobs by Sept. 15.

Chen said that as the son of a tenant farmer, he knows about being a grassroots worker.

"I have always made listening to the voice of the working man and the protection of his livelihood a top priority, " he said, adding that the "silent workers" also need immediate assistance.

He said that the assistance should not be a quick fix, but should be a consistent model of "life-long thinking," in terms of welfare protection for workers, care for retired workers and assistance for the jobless.

He said that the Executive Yuan has over the past three years pushed for the legislation of a gender equality employment law, a vocational injury protection law, an employment insurance law and a law to protect against mass lay-offs. The Labor Standards Law (勞基法) has also been revised, he added.

Benefits for elderly workers will in the future be changed from a lumpsum upon retirement to a pension system so that they will have more comprehensive protection, Chen went on.

On the other hand, he said, to cut the jobless rate, the Executive Yuan submitted proposals late last year to increase first employment opportunities and expand public construction projects. The proposal has received support from legislators across the party spectrum and as of July 1, 30,000 people have been employed as a result.

He added that by Sept. 15, more than 97,000 workers will have found jobs and said the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) will also launch a program of loans for workers in times of need.

Echoing Chen's remark, the CLA said yesterday that insurance payments for retired workers will be changed from the present lump sum to a monthly pension system next year at the earliest.

CLA officials noted that the Executive Yuan approved a revised Labor Insurance Act (勞工保險條例) draft April 23 that is now under review by a legislative committee. The draft is expected to be put on the agenda at the next legislative session and implemented next year.

The officials made the remarks in the wake of President Chen's TV address.

According to the revised draft, only those who have paid for labor insurance during their working lives will be entitled to a pension.

The number of years under the labor insurance system will be taken into account and they will be given a choice between the pension system or the existing lump sum payment.

However, those who begin paying labor insurance only after the revision of the act will have no choice and will be paid under the pension system, the officials said.

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