Taiwan’s inhabitants is anticipated to quickly age over the subsequent 5 years. At present, greater than 20 p.c of the inhabitants is over the age of 65. By 2060, the aged will embody greater than 41.4 p.c of the inhabitants. This demographic shift poses a significant query: how will Taiwan handle its impending labor scarcity? To fulfill the problem, it might want to improve employee protections for the military of elder-care staff and different migrant laborers – together with these from Southeast Asia – who’re filling vacant roles in different industries. Furthermore, policymakers ought to keep in mind the impression that elevated protections would have on perceptions of Taiwan’s smooth energy and adherence to human rights.
There are at present round 700,000 migrant laborers in Taiwan, making up about 80 p.c of the 960,000 overseas residents in Taiwan. Most of those laborers are from 4 Southeast Asian nations: Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand. Roughly 1 / 4 million are in home care roles, caring for each kids and elders. The rest fill roles in industries akin to agriculture, fishing, and even semiconductor factories.
Since 1992, Taiwan has closely relied on abroad staff particularly within the long-term aged care trade, partially as a result of cheaper value. Whereas long-term care insurance policies in Taiwan have advanced over time, Southeast Asian staff have been an indispensable a part of the system for 3 a long time. If something, demand for such staff will enhance because the inhabitants ages even additional.
Whereas many staff migrate as a result of promise of upper wages, there are vital monetary and private prices that come together with the choice emigrate. Brokerage charges – together with the prices paid to companies by potential staff to be positioned right into a job – might be prohibitively excessive, putting many of those staff in debt. As soon as they arrive in Taiwan, staff would possibly discover that their work is vastly completely different from what they had been initially advised, and that they lack the liberty to change jobs. Home staff, who’re virtually at all times ladies, are notably weak to bodily and sexual abuse, with a number of circumstances documented by the media. A very egregious case occurred in 2019 when a migrant employee from Vietnam was shot to demise by the police.
These human rights violations haven’t gone unnoticed by america. In 2020, Taiwan-caught fish was positioned on an inventory of Items Produced by Baby Labor or Pressured Labor by america Division of Labor. Within the home care setting, live-in staff (numbering near 220,000) usually are not protected by the Labor Requirements Act – that means that they don’t seem to be entitled to the minimal month-to-month wage or break day cited within the regulation. Moreover, break day is difficult to come back by, with a 3rd of live-in staff reporting not having any break day work within the years earlier than the pandemic, regardless of contracts stipulating that staff are entitled to at the least in the future off each seven days.
These types of staff’ rights violations disincentivize staff from coming to Taiwan at the same time as the federal government makes an attempt to recruit extra abroad staff to make up for a declining home inhabitants. The notion that Taiwan supplies insufficient employee protections might change into expensive in the long term, as staff important to related industries could also be much less prepared to danger leaving their house international locations. Taiwan has set a purpose to herald 400,000 staff by 2030 – however has solely outlined and relaxed residency necessities for white-collar staff, overlooking the wants of these in different industries.
Discussions of abroad staff are additionally linked to cross-Strait tensions. Following the announcement of latest Enhanced Protection Cooperation Settlement websites within the Philippines, the Chinese language ambassador to the Philippines made controversial remarks referencing the challenges that abroad Filipino staff would possibly face ought to the Philippines align itself too intently with america. In August, the Philippines additionally revealed its Nationwide Safety Coverage doc, by which officers expressed concern in regards to the security of abroad Filipinos who reside in Taiwan within the occasion of a cross-Strait disaster, suggesting that future bilateral discussions on abroad staff might not solely cowl pay and therapy, however consider the standing of tensions on the horizon as effectively.
From a smooth energy perspective, human rights violations harm Taiwan’s picture as a bastion of democratic values. In an period the place the U.S.-China rivalry dominates the overseas coverage sphere, and by proxy, assist for Taiwan has elevated, Taiwan should proceed to be perceived by these in different international locations as a spot with robust democratic establishments that uphold human rights, particularly in these South and Southeast Asian states focused by Taipei’s New Southbound Coverage.
Discrimination towards weak and minority populations is a matter not distinctive to Taiwan. Many liberal-democratic and high-income international locations the world over grapple with this challenge. Nevertheless, worldwide notion issues an incredible deal extra to Taiwan than it does for different locations with related issues. Taiwan, particularly within the Western world, is usually seen as a foil to China – it’s a primarily Mandarin-speaking society that remodeled from a army dictatorship to arguably the strongest democracy in Asia in a really brief time. However due to Taiwan’s fragile standing on the worldwide stage, it faces an incredible deal extra scrutiny on the difficulty.
Abuse inside abroad employee communities can also be politically vital to Southeast Asian international locations: one solely wants to take a look at the numerous tales to see that high-profile abuse circumstances spark large-scale protests, and might even result in strained diplomatic relationships with host nations. With these in thoughts, there’s even much less room for error with regards to making certain the safety of migrant staff in Taiwan.
From america perspective, additionally it is vital that Taiwan maintains cordial, if not optimistic relationships with these nations as effectively. The US has been Taiwan’s staunchest supporter, and this assist might show to be a sore level in Washington’s strategy to regional capitals if relations deteriorate between Taiwan and Southeast Asian nations over human rights violations.
Everlasting settlement is one other dimension of the difficulty. There’s substantial issue acquiring the fitting to residency and citizenship, and there’s vital bias towards Southeast Asians, regardless of virtually 10 p.c of school-age kids in Taiwan now having a overseas mother or father.
In June of this 12 months, the Taiwanese overseas minister Joseph Wu said that discussions are going down relating to Filipino staff doubtlessly being allowed to remain longer and apply for everlasting residency, which may very well be a sign of additional change.
Offering stronger employee protections to migrants from Southeast Asia, in addition to potential paths to everlasting settlement, wouldn’t solely assist abate the myriad of points that include an older inhabitants – it might additionally shield Taiwan’s picture overseas and, maybe extra importantly, shield the employees that make Taiwan run.
As a key associate of Taiwan, america ought to proceed to observe the human rights state of affairs in Taiwan, particularly relating to migrant staff, and assist insurance policies and civil society teams pushing for higher working circumstances. It isn’t simply Taiwan that will profit from these coverage reforms—additionally it is potential that different East and Southeast Asian international locations might look to Taiwan’s instance and mannequin new insurance policies from there, which might permit for additional smooth energy affect within the area.
This text was initially revealed in New Views on Asia by the Heart for Strategic and Worldwide Research and is reprinted with permission.