Highly skilled blue-collar workers are being excluded from government attempts to attract foreign talent, lawmakers yesterday told a joint meeting of the legislature’s Economics Committee, Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee, and Education and Culture Committee.
Draft amendments to the Act for the Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professionals (外國專業人才延攬及雇用法修正草案) seek to ease requirements for foreign white-collar employees who want to work in Taiwan, but in-demand blue-collar workers face much more onerous rules, Taiwan People’s Party Legislator Ann Kao (高虹安) said.
“There are many migrant workers who come to Taiwan to work in our tech factories on the production lines under the Employment Service Act (就業服務法),” Kao said. “They are highly skilled workers, yet they are limited to 12 to 14 years here before they have to leave Taiwan.”
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
By limiting the employment period of foreign blue-collar workers, Taiwan risks becoming a “training center,” leaving those workers, who could have otherwise made Taiwan their home, with no choice but to move to another country, Kao said.
“With the rising importance of technology in US-Taiwan-China relations, this is a national security issue,” she said.
National Development Council Minister Kung Ming-hsin (龔明鑫) said he agreed that blue-collar talent drain is “of grave concern to Taiwanese industry.”
“It is not an issue that is addressed in the draft amendments,” Kung said. “However, we are in talks with Vice Premier Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津) to deal with the problem separately.”
The talks are still in preliminary stages, he added.
Unlike blue-collar workers, “foreign special professionals” can stay in Taiwan indefinitely and have a pathway to permanent resident status, the council has said.
Foreign special professionals are described as employees who possess special expertise needed by Taiwan in science and technology, economics, education, culture, the arts, sports or other fields as determined by the authorities.
The draft includes extending short-term tax breaks offered to foreign special professionals to attract more talent, Kung said.
“We have a relatively high top marginal income tax of 40 percent versus 22 percent in Singapore and 17 percent in Hong Kong. I hope that by giving highly skilled foreign talent an extra incentive to try living in Taiwan, they will like [Taiwan] so much that they will stay,” he said.
The draft amendments seek to extend the tax break period from three to five years, the council has said.
If a foreign professional’s annual income reaches NT$3 million (US$107,852) during the five-year period, only half of the amount over that threshold would be included in gross income in the assessment of income tax liability, according to the draft amendments.
Simply cutting the tax is not being considered, because that would affect the government’s financial structure, Kung said.
However, he is upbeat that even a short-term benefit could result in foreign professionals choosing to make Taiwan their home, he said.
“People who try living in Taiwan end up loving it here,” Kung said. “We want to encourage more highly skilled professionals around the world to give Taiwan a chance.”
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