According to the Ministry of Labor, Taipei and New Delhi are to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) before the end of this year, allowing for Indian migrant workers to come to Taiwan. This is beneficial to both sides.
Today, most migrant workers in Taiwan are from Southeast Asia. Cultural differences between Taiwan and India are more obvious than those between Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries, and the government should come up with ways to deal with Taiwan’s lack of understanding so that the plan could be carried out smoothly.
The first issue is language. Most people think that all Indians are fluent in English, which is not true. On the contrary, only 10 percent of the Indian population use English as their primary language. The percentage of Indian workers capable of speaking English is even lower. The Indian constitution recognizes 22 official languages and the primary language in use varies from region to region. The government’s foremost task is to take care of language and translation issues for Indian migrant workers. Without appropriate interpreters, it would be difficult for Taiwanese supervisors to communicate with Indian overseers who manage other workers. Therefore, more resources should be invested in training intermediate supervisors in managing Indian workers.
Religion is another issue. Around 80 percent of the Indian population practice Hinduism, whereas in Taiwan, only one Hindu temple has been officially recognized. In the past, there were some Indians who had turned their houses into Hindu temples, causing serious community disputes; a lawsuit was even filed. If more than 10,000 Indian migrant workers are to come to Taiwan, the religious needs and potential problems would increase.
Additionally, Indians have their own dietary needs due to religious reasons. There was an incident in which Indian students cooked curry in their dormitory and Taiwanese students protested. For followers of Hinduism, eating beef is a sin. For the second-largest religious community in India, Muslims, eating pork or derivative products is forbidden. Many Indians are vegetarians. If these dietary needs cannot be met, managing Indian workers would be a difficult task.
The government also needs to consider which sectors Indian migrant workers would participate in. Taiwan’s labor-intensive industries are confronting serious labor shortages. For this reason, the government might want to increase its admission quota for Indian students enrolling in technical courses or collaborative industry-academia programs at the university level. This has become a sensitive issue for the official agencies, given that in recent years, some illegal agencies and private universities have exploited foreign students in the name of educational exchange.
Even so, if the government would allow Indians to come to Taiwan as students and workers at once, studying toward further degrees while working part-time, Indians would be able to pay their tuition while learning technical skills. This would be a “triple-win” situation for universities currently dealing with a lack of students due to the country’s low fertility rates, for industries facing labor shortages and for Indians seeking opportunities abroad. This triple-win situation could be achieved by regulating wicked brokers and illicit agencies. The government should not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The migrant workers quota must be discussed. India has become the most populous country, and Indian workers are certain to become a labor force in other places such as the Middle East. It has been reported that the government might bring in 100,000 Indian migrant workers. However, before more comprehensive measures are put in place, the government should start with a trial period with a smaller group of Indian migrant workers to see if everything goes as planned. Today, communication between Taiwanese and Indian societies is still quite limited. A large group of Indians who suddenly appear in Taiwan might cause an impact. If Taiwanese are not ready for this, cultural differences might lead to misunderstanding or even discrimination, and that would be extremely disadvantageous to deepening and developing Taiwan-Indian relations in the long run.
Lastly, to facilitate this plan, the government should enhance the personnel at the embassy and official agencies so that the review process could be implemented smoothly. Before the plan is carried out, governmental officials should also consult with professional institutions and experts in India on migrant worker issues.
A well-intentioned plan should not be rushed into right before an election just for the sake of winning more votes.
Fang Tien-sze is a visiting professor at National Chengchi University’s Department of Diplomacy and deputy director at National Tsing Hua University’s Center for India Studies.
Translated by Emma Liu
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has a good reason to avoid a split vote against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in next month’s presidential election. It has been here before and last time things did not go well. Taiwan had its second direct presidential election in 2000 and the nation’s first ever transition of political power, with the KMT in opposition for the first time. Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was ushered in with less than 40 percent of the vote, only marginally ahead of James Soong (宋楚瑜), the candidate of the then-newly formed People First Party (PFP), who got almost 37
At their recent summit in San Francisco, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) made progress in a few key areas. Notably, they agreed to resume direct military-to-military communications — which China had suspended last year, following a visit by then-speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan — to reduce the chances of accidental conflict. However, neither leader was negotiating from a particularly strong position: As Biden struggles with low approval ratings, Xi is overseeing a rapidly weakening economy. The economic news out of China has been poor for some time. Growth is slowing;
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) has called on his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) counterpart, William Lai (賴清德), to abandon his party’s Taiwanese independence platform. Hou’s remarks follow an article published in the Nov. 30 issue of Foreign Affairs by three US-China relations academics: Bonnie Glaser, Jessica Chen Weiss and Thomas Christensen. They suggested that the US emphasize opposition to any unilateral changes in the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait, and that if Lai wins the election, he should consider freezing the Taiwanese independence clause. The concept of de jure independence was first
Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) on Thursday reiterated that he is “deep-green at heart” and that he would mostly continue President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) national defense and foreign policies if elected. However, he was still seriously considering forming a “blue-white” electoral alliance with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) less than a month ago, telling students he “hates the KMT, but loathes the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) even more,” while constantly criticizing Tsai’s foreign policy these past few years. Many critics have said that Ko’s latest remarks were aimed at attracting green-leaning swing voters, as recent polls