Foreign workers in Taiwan are generally exploited, and foreign fishers working for Taiwanese employers are commonly subjected to poor working conditions, a report published on Tuesday by the US government said.
The annual report on human rights practices was published by the US Department of State.
This year’s report again underscored Taiwan’s notorious record in treating foreign workers and members of fishing crews, an issue that the department has previously raised.
By “foreign workers” in Taiwan, the report refers mainly to those from Southeast Asia.
“Forced labor occurred primarily in sectors reliant on migrant workers, including domestic services, fishing, manufacturing, meat processing and construction,” the report said.
“Some labor brokers charged foreign workers exorbitant recruitment fees and used debts incurred from these fees in the source country as tools of coercion to subject the workers to debt bondage,” it added.
Local groups have complained that bureaucratic red tape continues to enable brokers to extract a profit from foreign workers and prevents the Ministry of Labor’s foreign worker direct-hire service center from being used more widely, the report said.
The report also said that the ministry maintains a 24-hour “1955” toll-free hotline for foreign workers.
“Among the 186,014 calls in 2019, the hotline helped 5,322 foreign workers to reclaim a total of NT$179 million [US$6.27 million at the current exchange rate] in salary payments,” the report said.
However, “foreign workers were often reluctant to report employer abuses for fear that the employer would terminate their contract, subjecting them to possible deportation and leaving them unable to pay off their debt to recruiters,” it said.
Foreign fishers working on Taiwanese vessels are commonly subjected to mistreatment and poor working conditions, it said.
“Migrant fishers reported that senior crewmembers employ coercive tactics such as threats of physical violence, beatings, withholding of food and water, retention of identity documents, wage deductions and noncontractual compulsory sharing of vessel operating costs to retain their labor,” it said.
“NGOs [non-governmental organizations] reported that foreign fishing crews in Taiwan’s distant-water fishing fleet generally received wages below the required US$450 per month because of dubious deductions for administrative fees and deposits,” it said.
With labor rights groups often reporting mistreatment of foreign crew members, the Fisheries Agency acknowledged that they need more personnel, as they can only conduct labor inspections on 400 vessels per year, the report said.
As of February, there were 712,107 migrant workers in Taiwan: 36.5 percent from Indonesia, 34 percent from Vietnam, 21.1 percent from the Philippines and 8.2 percent from Thailand, Ministry of Labor data showed.
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