The Ministry of Labor is today to implement new rules limiting migrant workers’ ability to work in a sector different from the one for which they received their visa.
The new rules come as Taiwan is facing a labor shortage, due in part to a ban on new migrant workers entering the nation since May 19 amid a COVID-19 outbreak, and despite criticism that the policy does not address underlying labor market problems.
Since the entry suspension, employers of foreign caregivers have increasingly filed complaints, saying that their employees are seeking permission to leave for higher-paying factory jobs, the ministry said.
Ministry statistics showed that from January through May, 1,751 foreign caregivers had left their positions to pursue factory jobs, compared with only 287 workers in all of last year.
Under the new policy, promulgated on Friday, consent from their employer would no longer be sufficient for workers to take a job in a different sector.
Once they have left their position, they would have to register for a transfer with a government-run employment service center, which would advertise their services to employers within their current sector for 14 days, the ministry said.
If no employer in their sector would offer them a job, the center would then help them seek employment in other sectors, the ministry said.
The policy distinguishes between five industries — domestic care, manufacturing, fishing, agriculture and construction — and does not affect regulations on changing positions within the same industry, it added.
If a migrant worker cannot find a new job within 60 days of filing their transfer registration — either because they have not received any offers or because they have refused them — the workers would need to return to their home countries, the ministry said, adding that it would grant one extension to the 60-day period.
During the policy’s preview last month, labor groups, including the Taiwan International Workers Association, sharply criticized it for ignoring fundamental issues migrant workers are faced with, such as long working hours or low wages, saying that they were driving them to seek jobs in other industries.
At a protest on July 27, a caregiver from the Philippines who goes by the nickname “Lovely” said that her monthly salary is only NT$17,000, despite having almost no time off.
Most caregivers want to transfer to factory jobs where they can earn the minimum wage of NT$24,000 per month, she said, adding: “Is that greedy?”
The Workforce Development Agency yesterday said in a statement that the ministry must “prioritize” measures to ensure that foreign workers remain in jobs for which they have had professional training and for which they were recruited.
As of the end of last month, about 237,000 of Taiwan’s nearly 700,000 migrant workers were employed as domestic caregivers, ministry data showed.
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