An ad hoc committee will discuss issues related to cross-border employment on Tuesday next week, the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) said, adding that if a consensus is reached, it will immediately begin revising rules and regulations so any new measures can be implemented next month or in July and make it easier for foreign workers to come to Taiwan.
The government’s move to amend regulations governing foreign professionals was prompted, in part, by a Singaporean official’s recent comments that Taiwan has set a bad example in terms of recruiting foreign workers and retaining local talent.
In a speech at the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum in Singapore earlier last month, Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said his country risked becoming a “Taiwan story” and would lose its competitive edge if it closed its doors to talented individuals from overseas.
Shanmugaratnam said the talent migration from Taiwan was a result of its “closed-door” policies on foreign workers.
The nation was stung by the criticism and Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) ordered his Cabinet to study ways to improve recruitment policy.
CLA Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) said one regulation the government is looking to change is the two years of work experience requirement. Under the current law, foreign white-collar workers must have at least two years of work experience before they can be hired and their basic salary must be at least NT$47,971 (US$1,645).
Wang said the work experience requirement was meant to shorten the period employers would need to train new employees.
However, truly talented people will likely have good job prospects after working for two years, meaning there is little likelihood they would want to come to Taiwan to advance their careers, she said.
Wang said that the real cause behind the brain drain and low number of foreign workers might lie in the lack of good employment opportunities and attractive compensation.
Another change sought is the lowering of the minimum wage to “about the same as entry-level salaries for Taiwanese university graduates,” she said.
Wang added that another possible policy change regarding foreign white-collar workers would be the removal of the requirement that only graduates from the world’s top 100 universities may be hired.
The council defines “the world’s top 100 universities” by referring to three prominent rankings: The Times Higher Education Supplement from London, the ranking made by Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University and Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings.
She said she was curious how many graduates from the global top 100 higher education institutes would really want to work in Taiwan once the proposed changes were made.
“I don’t think a graduate from a top university will be willing to work in Taiwan for a monthly salary lower than NT$47,971,” Wang said.
The basic salary rule has been criticized for limiting an employer’s ability to hire part-time foreign white-collar workers.
Wang said her council is not the barricade that has been blocking foreign professionals. The real culprits in the nation’s shortage of talent are industrial development policy and local employers’ willingness to pay salaries attractive to foreign talent, she said.
Sun Yu-lien (孫友聯), secretary-general of the Taiwan Labor Front, said people would not oppose the council’s efforts to attract first-rate workers from abroad.