The number of foreign laborers approached the 360,000 mark by the end of last year, but over the long term, the figure will gradually decline, the Council of Labor Afrairs (CLA) minister said on Thursday.
At the end of last year, Taiwan had 357,937 legal foreign laborers, CLA Minister Lu Tien-lin (盧天麟) said, adding that the number had increased by about 20,000 over the previous year.
Lu said the increase was the result of a combination of factors, including a steady increase in the demand for caregivers as Taiwan's population continues to age.
The upward swing was further augmented last year by rising demand in the manufacturing sector thanks to the return of expatriate Taiwanese businesspeople to launch new investment projects at home, he said.
Council tallies also show that the number of foreign laborers increased by 13,426 in the manufacturing sector as compared with the 2006 level, while the number of caregivers increased by 8,311.
By nationality, Indonesians formed the largest national group, council statistics show.
With Taiwan's elderly population continuing to rise, Lu said, the number of caregivers has increased by 8,000 to 10,000 annually. As for the number of foreign laborers in the industrial sector, Lu said the number is expected to begin a downward trend over the next four years as major investment projects are completed.
Meanwhile, he said, the council is set to extend Labor Standards Law (勞動基準法) coverage to all manual laborers, including local and foreign caregivers, within two years.
Because this coverage could increase the financial burden on employers, Lu said the council will refer to measures in place in the US and in European countries to confine the coverage to certain categories of family helpers or maids.