Mon, Mar 05, 2018 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Enhancing immigration policy for a better future: NDC head

Immigrants are a critical factor in the changing population structure of Taiwan and must be welcomed for the sake of continued and long-term development in the nation, National Development Council (NDC) Minister Chen Mei-ling said in an interview with staff reporters Chen Mei-ying and Cheng Chi-fang of the ‘Liberty Times’ (the sister paper of the ‘Taipei Times’), adding that coming up with a draft of new legislation on immigration remained a possibility for the council

Liberty Times (LT): What government policies could provide a solution for the challenges facing the nation’s population structure and industry sectors?

Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶): The massive change to Taiwan’s population demographics is an issue of great concern to me. Over the past year, there were fewer than 200,000 newborns, indicating a decrease in the nation’s birthrate.

In addition, Taiwan is facing an increasingly aging society. The number of people aged older than 65 has exceeded those under the age of 14.

With both a decline in the birthrate and an aging society, the demographic dividend — the actual working population — in Taiwan is rapidly shrinking. Because there will only be a limited increase in the working population, the severity of the labor shortage will worsen in 20 years.

Government policies regarding Taiwan’s population have predominantly focused on subsidies and benefits — such as offering subsidies to encourage population growth — instead of focusing on the need to develop industry and grow the economy.

The NDC has suggested, after several meetings, that the Executive Yuan combine meetings on the population and skilled workers into one.

Premier William Lai (賴清德) has also announced a policy to foster skilled workers that would see the creation of task forces in the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Finance.

Such efforts would hopefully provide a more well-rounded policy regarding the nation’s population policy, as well as a shift in immigration-related regulations.

As it stands, the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法) was created from the vantage point of national security, not considering the need to attract foreign skilled workers.

It is the age of global competition over skilled talent. Advances in technology now allow the possibility of working remotely.

As an increasing amount of data is stored on cloud servers, information security should be the focus of national security officials, while the relocation of skilled workers will be an irreversible trend.

Under these circumstances, Taiwan needs immigration laws that offer more flexibility — such as one that would offer mid-level workers, which are sorely needed, the opportunity to work in Taiwan.

As for foreigners who are already working in Taiwan and have fallen in love with the nation, the nation should relax standards enough to allow them permanent residency, as well as the possibility of retaining dual citizenship.

Criteria must be laid out to prevent the introduction of mid-level workers into Taiwan from disrupting employment for Taiwanese nationals: First, companies seeking to hire foreign workers must not affect the career possibilities of Taiwanese young people. Second, their wages should not be below Taiwanese wage standards.

The nation should introduce skilled foreign workers in moderation, distinguishing between “labor shortages” and “in need of skilled workers.”

With skilled talent being drawn away from Taiwan, the government should endeavor to introduce measures to retain such workers, in addition to bringing in new talent.

LT: How is the drafting of a new immigration act coming along?

Chen: The purpose of the draft legislation is not only to maintain a percentage of workers in the population that can ensure Taiwan’s competitiveness and prevent a labor shortage from affecting the nation’s industrial and economic development, but also to move Taiwan beyond a mindset that simply seeks to “control” the coming and going of skilled workers.

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