More than half of the country's diplomats hope that married couples serving simultaneously in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can be assigned to the same consulate so that they do not have to suffer longtime separation as a result of their careers, an official survey found.
Current ministry regulations stipulate that married couples who are both diplomats cannot stay in the same consulate. However, a survey conducted by the ministry's Research and Planning Committee showed that 56 percent of diplomats oppose the rule, which is meant to prevent corruption.
Whether couples who serve as diplomats should be sent to the same embassy or representative office has been an unresolved issue in the ministry, whose staff often have to cope with family problems caused by frequent separation.
"Of course we hope married couples can stay together. But placing a married couple in the same consulate is not an easy thing," said a female diplomat whose husband also serves in the ministry.
Committee chairperson Maysing Yang (楊黃美幸), who publicized the survey in a press conference yesterday, cited difficulties the ministry encounters as it considers whether to allow married couples to stay in the same consulate.
"In small consulates where only three or four people work, the husband or wife might happen to be the person in charge of assessing the staff's job performance," Yang said. "How can the husband or the wife assess their partner's job performance?"
Although personally opposed to the regulation, Yang nevertheless shared the concern that married couples may cover up each other's misdeeds if assigned to the same post.
"Placing a married couple in a big consulate is easier because the consulate has more vacancies and sections. The couple can be posted to different sections," Yang said, noting that the American Institute in Taiwan even gives US diplomats' partners jobs so that the couples can stay in the same country.
Unfortunately, most of the nation's consulates are small.
"The US is a big country and its consulates are large, having many positions," said the diplomat, who requested anonymity. "Taiwan is different from the US."
"Some advanced countries assign married couples who are diplomats to the same country on humanitarian grounds," Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) once said, aware that many of the country's diplomats are struggling to deal with marital difficulties and their children's education problems.
Although most diplomats want the current ban on married couples working in the same consulate removed, the survey found that 32.1 percent of ministry staff hope to keep the rule.
"Some diplomats whose partners work in other professions argue that their partners often have to quit their jobs in order to accompany them overseas. They said it is unfair that their partners lose their jobs, while married couples who are both diplomats can retain their careers when working abroad," Yang said.
Meanwhile, the survey also revealed that 63.1 percent of the ministry's 1,500 staff work more than 50 hours a week and that 49.2 percent of the staff said their workload is too heavy.
Despite prevalent overwork among ministry staff, the survey showed that 67.9 percent of the staff feel their jobs are meaningful and fulfilling and 88.6 percent of them are proud that they can contribute to the Republic of China's diplomacy.