Negotiations with Myanmar on introducing Burmese nationals as agricultural and industrial workers could be finalized within two months, the Ministry of Labor said yesterday.
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are also seen as potential new sources of labor to mitigate an expected shortfall of migrant workers, Workforce Development Agency director Liu Chia-chun (劉佳鈞) said.
Liu’s remarks came in response to Indonesia’s decision last month to gradually bar would-be household caretakers from working in Taiwan beginning in 2017.
The ministry plans to soon introduce between 100 and 200 Burmese workers “on a trial basis” as soon as late next month or early May, Liu said, adding that the ministry would consider increasing the number if initial attempts are successful.
While the initial plans would focus on manufacturing and agricultural workers, introducing household caregivers from Myanmar would also be a likely option in the near future, Liu said.
Liu said he was confident about introducing more Burmese workers, as Burmese share “a similar religion” and lifestyle with Taiwanese.
With a decade-long ban on Vietnamese household caretakers set to end soon, they are likely to fill the immediate gap left by Indonesian caretakers in the short run, ministry officials said.
Migrant rights activist Chen Su-hsiang (陳素香), the president of the Taiwan International Workers’ Association, asked whether the government was ready to accommodate migrant workers from Myanmar.
A large number of translators fluent in Burmese would be required, Chen said, as local labor departments around the nation only provide consulting services for migrant workers in four languages: Thai, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Bahasa Indonesia.
The ministry would also need to translate legal documents and labor regulations into Burmese to fully protect the rights of migrant workers from Myanmar, she added.
“I think the Ministry of Labor is exchanging blows with the Indonesian government,” Chen said.
“It is deeply regretful that when Indonesia demands that Indonesian caretakers be covered under minimum wage regulations, our ministry responds by searching for slave labor from another nation,” she added.
Last year, the Council of Agriculture proposed plans to introduce migrant workers to mitigate labor shortages in several agricultural sectors, including animal husbandry, livestock butchery, mushroom growing and the tea industry.
Foreign blue-collar workers are currently limited to employment as household caregivers and industrial and maritime workers, while plans to introduce foreign farm labor have drawn criticism from both labor amd farming rights groups.
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