Number of furloughed workers tops 20,000, highest since 2009

Among the companies that have furlough programs, 333 are manufacturers, 242 are retailers or wholesalers and 50 are in the service sector, according to the data. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — In the wake of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of furloughed employees in Taiwan has risen to 21,067, the highest level since November 2009.

As of May 15, 21,067 workers had agreed with their employers to go on unpaid leave, up 2,067 from seven days earlier, while 1,189 companies had introduced unpaid leave programs, up 142 from a week earlier, according to Ministry of Labor (MOL) data released Monday.

The number of furloughed workers is the highest since November 2009, when 19,948 workers were on furlough due to the effects of the global financial crisis, MOL statistics showed.

At the height of the crisis in February 2009, the number of people on unpaid leave peaked at nearly 239,000 in Taiwan.

By industry, the manufacturing sector had 8,786 workers on furlough over the past week, 41.7 percent of the total and the highest of any sector, according to MOL.

The hospitality and food/beverage industry registered the second highest number of furloughed workers with 3,998, followed by the wholesale and retail sector with 3,882.

The 1,189 companies with unpaid leave programs over the past week is the highest since statistics were first recorded in January 2009, according to MOL data.

The previous record of 903 companies with such programs set during the 2008-2009 financial crisis was first passed on May 1 with 922 companies and then again on May 8 with 1,047 companies, MOL data showed.

Most of the companies implementing unpaid leave are small enterprises with workforces of fewer than 50 people, according to the ministry.