Migrant workers’ rights advocates yesterday rallied in support of protections for the nation’s caregivers, the majority of whom are women who make on average only NT$17,000 per month.
To mark International Women’s Day, the Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan gathered in front of the Ministry of Labor in Taipei calling for stronger legal guarantees for vulnerable caregivers.
Most caregivers in Taiwan are women, but their work is not covered by the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), the group told a news conference at the protest.
Ministry data last year showed that 74.3 percent of caregivers reported not receiving any time off work, it said.
In the years before the COVID-19 pandemic, as many as 34 percent did not receive time off, meaning there are about 70,000 caregivers who have not had a break for years, it added.
Monthly salaries are also creeping further away from the minimum wage, which this year is NT$25,250, while the average caregiver only made NT$17,000, the group said.
That is a difference of NT$8,250, setting a new record, it said.
The cost of employing a caregiver is borne by individual households, but they should be incorporated into the government’s long-term care and social welfare system, Taiwan International Workers’ Association specialist Betty Chen (陳容柔) said.
That would ensure that labor protections are afforded to migrant caregivers under the law, while also improving the quality of care, Chen said.
A domestic services bill has been proposed to protect workers’ rights, but it has not been passed into law, she said.
The government next month is to begin a “migrant worker retention” program intended to keep longer-term residents in medium-skill positions, but the reality is that many employers do not have or are not willing to pay NT$24,000 per month to caregivers as required under the plan, she added.
Taiwan is in dire need of caregivers, but the government has not considered that the retention problem is due to a lack of labor protections, Chen said.
Improving regulations would naturally result in better retention, meaning that its “migrant retention program” would be unnecessary, she said.
That involves passing a domestic services act; ensuring a minimum salary, maximum working hours and days off; and directing public funds to families in need of long-term care, she added.
The ministry in response said that owing to the “obvious differences” inherent in caregiving work, it is difficult to apply the Labor Standards Act.
In addition, no consensus has yet been reached on a dedicated act covering the work, it said, vowing to continue implementing measures to protect the rights and interests of caregivers.
Migrant caregivers and their employers are already required to sign a contract before the worker comes to Taiwan stipulating rest days, with a minimum of one day off every seven days, the ministry said, adding that it is continuing to discuss wage adjustments with the workers’ countries of origin, taking into account changing salaries within Taiwan.
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