Despite the pouring rain, hundreds of migrant workers and rights advocates marched on the streets in Taipei, calling on the government to establish a long-term care system for the elderly in the country so care workers can have a more reasonable work schedule.
“No to sweatshops. We want a long-term care system. The people united will never be defeated,” migrant workers from the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam chanted in their native tongues and in Mandarin as they rallied outside the Ministry of Health and Welfare and during their march to Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office.
“When President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was running for his first presidential term in 2008, he promised a law on long-term care for the nation’s elders would be in place in four years, but no law has been passed five years after he took office,” Migrant Empowerment Network Taiwan spokesperson Wu Ching-ju (吳靜如) said.
“The number of people who need long-term care has reached 700,000 this year, and is expected to rise to 770,000 in 2016. What will become of Ma’s campaign promise?” Wu said.
Wu said that among the 700,000 people who need long-term care, 28 percent are cared for by about 200,000 migrant caregivers, while 65 percent are cared for by their families.
Without a well-structured long-term care system to support them, foreign caregivers and family members often have to look after elderly relatives 24 hours a day and seven days a week, “and most of them are both mentally and physically tired, and are unable to provide top-quality care to those who need it most,” she added.
In front of the Presidential Office, the demonstrators performed a skit showing how hard life is for them working in Taiwan.
In the skit, migrant workers had to borrow a large sum of money from the bank to pay the broker to come to Taiwan to work. When they arrived in Taiwan, they had to work day and night, but most of the salary they received during the first few years went to repaying the loan.
Romsiyah, an Indonesian who has been working in Taiwan for seven years as a caregiver, started to cry after watching the piece.
“I’m very emotional now because the story [in the skit] reminds me of my own story,” Romsiyah said. “My job is to look after a man in his 80s. When he’s awake, I have to help him with whatever he needs, such as taking him outside for a walk, massage him, help him to go to the toilet, and make sure he does not fall down, but when he’s asleep, I have to help with household chores.”
After the first month of working in Taiwan, she was only paid NT$2,000, and her salary gradually increased to NT$13,000 by her ninth month in the country, although her official salary is NT$15,840.
Chen Hsiu-lien (陳秀蓮), a researcher at Taiwan International Workers’ Association, said the ideal long-term care system would involve community care centers that would dispatch caregivers according to the needs of individuals.
“For example, if you need a caregiver 24 hours a day, the center may dispatch one to work the day shift, and another for the night shift,” she said. “If you only need a caregiver at certain times of the day, or someone to fill in for a family member so that he or she may take a break, then the center would send one to fill the vacancy.”
Separately yesterday, the ministry said a draft Long-term Care Services Act proposed to foreign workers the opportunity to receive “in-service supplementary training” and to become certified long-term caregivers if they completed the same amount of training and certification as local caregivers.