Liberty Times (LT): It has been seven months since you assumed the position of labor minister. What is your vision for labor in Taiwan and do you have any policies planned?
Hsu Ming-chun (許銘春): Workers are a company’s biggest asset. The primary requirement for companies that want to operate sustainably is to treat workers well. I will push to meet three goals in terms of the ministry’s policies: stability, security and safety.
First, I want all workers to have a stable job. I want to use professional training to improve the skills of workers just entering the workplace, as well as those of current workers. Meanwhile, we are drafting a special employment act to create a friendly workplace for middle-aged and senior workers.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
Second, having a workplace in which workers can work securely is crucial. I will create a minimum wage law to protect marginal workers, bolster the guaranteed rights and interests of non-traditional workers and migrant workers, and encourage businesses to share profits with workers.
Finally, having a work environment that is 100 percent safe is the most important. Safety is the bottom line for workers. While toughening workplace inspections and aiming for zero industrial accidents, I will push for legislation that establishes occupational accident insurance that integrates accident prevention and rehabilitation.
The new legislation would also allow workers to enjoy economic stability in their old age and ensure sustainable development.
LT: How is the draft of the minimum wage bill progressing?
Hsu: The minimum wage act has been a major plank in President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) platform. The aim is to include a process for setting the minimum wage into legislation, a procedure that takes social and economic indicators into account so that the calculated minimum income maintains a basic standard of living. Such improvements would create a clear and unambiguous basis for adjusting the minimum wage. The bill is more or less complete.
In chairing the Basic Wage Commission meeting last month, I found that the labor and capital sectors agree on which economic indicators to use. The act is being drafted along those lines.
The Ministry of Labor has consulted with several major countries, studying the systems that they use for setting a minimum wage. As none of them uses a set formula, there is no plan to introduce one into the bill. If we used a set formula, there would be no need to have the [basic wage] commission, or to discuss anything, because plugging numbers into the formula would suffice.
However, adjustments to the minimum wage should be made after considering fluctuations in the economy. I believe that setting the minimum wage is a balancing act between guaranteeing a basic standard of living for laborers and facilitating economic growth. We need to approach the issue using rational methods.
LT: What indicators would the Basic Wage Commission use?
Hsu: The most important aspect of the minimum wage act is to define a set of wage adjustment indicators. Provisionally, there are indicators that “should” be consulted and those that “could” be consulted. The commission would use the mandatory indicators to define the adjustment range and exercise discretion in consulting the optional indicators. The system would provide more flexibility in responding to social and economic changes.
The draft act contains seven wage adjustment indicators: the annual growth rate of the consumer price index, the average worker’s income, average growth in the average wage, the state of the nation’s economy, the wage and salary survey, the family income survey and the minimum cost of living.
It has not yet been decided which indicators would fall under the mandatory category and which under the optional category. This is to be decided after consulting with the public.
The minimum wage is currently determined by regulations that control basic wage deliberations, while the proposed act would change the legal status of the rules, from regulations to a law. While the Basic Wage Commission is supposed to convene during the third quarter of each year, there is no legal mandate requiring it to do so. The bill would address this by stipulating when the commission must meet.
LT: Will there be other important labor legislation later this year?
Hsu: The ministry has completed a draft employment act for middle-aged and senior workers to manage the employment and hiring of these workers.
The legally required preview of the draft act has been completed, and the ministry is now gathering different opinions and reassessing the text of the act. The draft is expected to be delivered to the Executive Yuan for review before the end of the month, and will be sent to the Legislative Yuan for review during the next legislative session at the earliest.
I recently watched a video online in which a young person and an elderly person were teaching each other fitness moves. The teenager discovered that the senior’s performance was better than expected. The video shattered stereotypes held about other generations. In other words, do not hold stereotypes about senior citizens — as long as you are young at heart, you will always be in good shape.
The ministry will continue to push for measures to facilitate the employment of middle-aged and senior citizens. The elderly population provides considerable help to the employment market.
There will also be legislation regarding occupational accident insurance. The draft is expected to be completed before June next year.
Since assuming this position, I have emphasized workplace safety. Legislative protections for those involved in occupational accidents are crucial.
Regulations on protections related to occupational accidents are currently spread throughout the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), the Labor Insurance Act (勞工保險條例) and other laws. Workers are sometimes unable to know in a prompt, clear and comprehensive manner what their rights are after experiencing an occupational accident. That is why ad hoc legislation is needed on this issue.
The ministry is planning to remove mention of occupational accident insurance from the Labor Insurance Act and to integrate it into a law that protects workers involved in occupational accidents so that a complete system of protection can be established, one that handles everything from prevention to compensation and rehabilitation.
Translated by staff writers Sherry Hsiao and Jonathan Chin
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