Many Taiwanese work overtime, but wages have not been raised for years and generally overtime is not paid, Ministry of Labor statistics show, with some academics saying low average wages nationwide are to blame.
Average working hours totaled 2,104 in 2015, the fourth-highest number in the world, ministry data showed.
While the data suggests that Taiwanese work less than eight hours a day, irregular unpaid overtime hours might be hidden in the statistics.
Manufacturing and industrial sectors workers in April averaged 153.9 work hours, a Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics survey showed.
Overtime averages 8.1 hours per month, with industrial workers doing 13.4 hours and service industry workers doing four hours.
Chen, who works for an agency that helps students apply to overseas schools, said she earns NT$35,000 per month. However, she often works 60 hours overtime per month, sometimes more than 170 hours if standby hours are taken into account.
She said her social life and sleep quality have been sacrificed, which lowers her average wage.
Lee, who is a lawyer, said he has to work more than 50 hours overtime per month which are unpaid.
Since the “one fixed day off and one flexible rest day” policy came into effect last year, average household income has been reduced by NT$10,000, General Chamber of Commerce chairman Lai Cheng-i (賴正鎰) said on Tuesday.
The increase of irregular wages, such as overtime and performance bonus pay, along with a stagnation of regular wages has led most workers to exchange their time for money, Working Poor and Tax Policy Research Center convener Hung Ching-shu (洪敬舒) said.
Although the service sector contributes about 60 percent to the nation’s GDP, the number of service workers has surpassed the contribution, which shows wages in the sector are generally low, he said.
Manufacturing sector workers, who contribute 40 percent of GDP, have tried to raise their wages by working overtime, he said.
The government should help workers distinguish different types of pay, such as regular and irregular wages, so that workers can fight for their rights, instead of following what employers say, he said.
Individual wages often grow in proportion to working hours, but when wages reach a certain level, the proportion is altered and employees do not have to work longer hours for more money, National Chengchi University Institute of Labor Research professor Cheng Chih-yu (成之約) said.
Workers willing to work overtime are more respected, but the issue is generally low wages, he said.
To improve wages, workers’ basic rights should be promoted, either through individuals or unions, Cheng said, adding that the government should enforce regulations.
“When no consensus can be reached, workers’ basic rights are neglected and even sacrificed,” he said.
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