The number of foreign workers has accelerated thanks to a new mechanism that allows manufacturers to hire greater numbers of migrant workers if they pay additional contributions to an employment stabilization fund.
The number of foreign workers increased by 6,036 last month, nearly three times the increase of 2,238 posted in April, the Council of Labor Affairs said, adding that the first increases began three years ago after the council eased restrictions on new manufacturing hires.
Under the employment stabilization fund, manufacturers can increase their foreign worker hirings by between 5 percent and 15 percent, but must contribute an additional NT$3,000 to NT$5,000 for each additional hire. If the trend continues, the nation’s migrant workers could surpass 500,000 by March or April next year, labor market analysts said.
Council data show the number of foreign workers stood at 304,000 in 2001 and increased to 425,000 in 2011. At the end of last month, the number had reached 484,367, with 275,288 working in the manufacturing sector and 209,079 in caregiving and social services.
This was a 39,000 increase on the same period last year, compared with an average increase of 20,000 in the past.
The council forecast that this year would see a rise of over 40,000, more than double the previous average.
Government officials and labor rights activists are divided on the possible impacts of a rapid increase in the migrant labor.
Council officials said that the spike in migrant labor has not affected job opportunities for Taiwanese, citing steady expansion of Taiwan’s workforce, as well as an unemployment rate that has remained the same.
Susan Chen (陳素香), spokeswoman for a migrant workers alliance, said the sharp increase in migrant workers could be largely attributed to employers’ reluctance to raise wages.
“Local manufacturers are reluctant to offer higher pay to well-trained Taiwanese, meaning that an influx of migrant workers would eventually affect job opportunities for Taiwanese and stunt increases in wage levels,” Chen said.
Chen accused manufacturing bosses of triggering the government’s easing of restrictions on hiring foreign workers by complaining about labor shortages and threatening to relocate abroad.