A government funded project implemented by the Council of Labor Affairs to provide financial assistance to domestic enterprises and workers affected by the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China is unobtainable to the Taiwanese workers, while benefiting enterprises’ management, a Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislator said on Sunday.
“The council has been allocating an annual budget of about NT$1 billion (US$33.3 million) after the signing of the ECFA in 2010, to minimize the impact the agreement has on domestic industries and workers,” TSU Legislator Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉) said.
“However, the application threshold for enterprises is far lower than that for workers and its execution rate stands at less than 30 percent,” Lin said.
The funding project is part of the Executive Yuan’s 10-Year Employment Development and Assistance Program in Response to Trade Liberalization, introduced concurrently with the ECFA and is scheduled to release a total of NT$95.2 billion budget over a 10-year span to help affected employees handle the impacts of the trade agreement, Lin said.
Despite the substantial budget allocated to the project, which received NT$993 million last year and NT$938 million this year, according to the council’s budget reports, its execution rate last year fell below 29 percent, Lin said.
The council’s Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training director-general Lin San-quei (林三貴) said during a meeting of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee in the previous legislative session that the low execution rate was the result of the bureau’s inability to identify people who were suitable for the financial aid.
“The council’s passive and lazy attitude is reprehensible,” Lin said.
Lin also said that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has boasted about the economic benefits brought by the ECFA, saying that the signing of the trade agreement would open the door for Taiwan to more regional economic cooperation.
“If the ECFA is such a cure-all, why does the government have to allocate such a large budget each year to assist affected enterprises and workers?” Lin asked.
Chang Feng-yi (張烽益), executive director of the Taiwan Labor and Social Policy Research Association also said the project’s application process was unreasonable.
“Unemployed people who intend to apply for the subsidy must first request their former employers to submit their documents on their behalf. They would then have to be evaluated and qualified by a competent committee, based mainly on whether the damages inflicted upon the applicants are caused by imports,” Chang said.
Such a screening process not only excludes workers who become unemployed due to industry migration, but also people whose former employer has gone out of business or is not in contact anymore, Chang said.
“At the end of the day, it is those most in need of aid who are disregarded,” Chang said.