As many as 1.1 million workers, or 13 percent of the workforce, put in more than 312 hours above the number of legal working hours last year, the latest statistics showed.
Working many hours of overtime is commonly known as bao gan (爆肝), or “liver busting.”
Taking the legal limit of 84 working hours per two weeks, statistics from the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) showed that last year, 45.8 percent of workers — 3.89 million — worked more than 42 hours per week.
In a paper published in this month’s issue of the Taiwan Journal of Public Health, Taipei Medical University researcher Tsia Feng-chen (蔡奉真) said working many hours of overtime has a detrimental effect on workers’ health.
Tsai said the situation in Taiwan has not improved over the past 10 years and that “we are lagging behind many countries in terms of protecting employees from being forced to exceed the legal limit on working hours.”
In 2000, the government stipulated that the number of working hours could not exceed 84 hours over a two-week period.
Using a survey published 10 years ago by the International Labor Organization on working conditions in Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and several European and North American nations, Tsai compared Taiwan’s regulations with the working hours in 49 other countries.
She found that most of these countries had set their weekly legal working hours at 35 to 40 hours, with 32 nations having a shorter working week than Taiwan.
Data published by the Council of Labor Affairs showed that Taiwanese employees worked a total of 2,144 hours on average in 2011, which was the second-highest amount, behind only Singapore, but 54 hours more than South Korea and 416 hours more than Japanese workers.
Tsai said that the council should inspect working conditions in Taiwanese companies.
In addition, Tsai urged the council to keep up with international trends in labor rights.
Council of Labor Affairs Minister Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) said the international trend is heading toward a shorter work week, and Taiwan has much room for improvement regarding working hours.
“To improve the situation, we should strengthen the collective negotiation process between unions and management, as well as inspect labor conditions and other long-term plans to amend the labor laws,” he said, adding that the council is also planning to offer incentive programs for companies to decrease working hours, so that workers can find a balance between their work and their daily living.