The government is to change its formal description of blue-collar foreign workers from “foreign laborer” (wailao, 外勞) to “migrant worker” (yigong, 移工) to promote a friendlier, more respectful society, Minister of the Interior Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said yesterday.
The National Immigration Agency (NIA) decided to make the change out of respect and support for migrant workers, Hsu added.
The new description is to appear in the “Purpose of Residence” field shown on the alien resident certificates (ARC) of migrant workers, Hsu said, as he handed out new ARCs with the new term to several migrant workers during a visit to an I-Mei Foods Co factory in Taoyuan.
While at the factory, Hsu thanked migrant workers from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand for their contributions to public infrastructure projects and Taiwan’s aging society.
In Taiwan, some people view the Chinese term “wailao” as condescending, while the term “yigong” is seen as being more neutral.
Wailao is a term associated with racial discrimination and classism, National Taiwan University sociology professor Lan Pei-chia (藍佩嘉) said in an article published in 2005 titled “Racial discrimination rhetoric” (種族歧視修辭學).
Taiwanese use the term to describe workers from developing Southeast Asian countries, while using a more respectful term, “foreign national person” (waiji renshi, 外籍人士), to describe white-collar workers from Western and developed countries, Lan wrote.
Hsu said he hoped that the NIA’s initiative would encourage people to use friendlier language when referring to expatriates working in Taiwan and to create a more respectful and accommodating atmosphere for them.
There are more than 700,000 migrant workers in Taiwan, including 110,000 in Taoyuan, making the city the biggest employer of foreign workers, NIA data showed.
Old ARCs, which have a validity of up to three years, will be gradually replaced with the new version as they expire, the NIA said.
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