The Executive Yuan recently decided to increase the minimum wage by 5.21%, meaning starting in 2022, the monthly minimum wage will be increased from the current NT$24,000 to NT$25,250.
However, more than 230,000 domestic migrant workers in Taiwan are not protected by the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), and their basic wage remains at NT$17,000, which has not been increased for six consecutive years.
Thus, the gap between the labor treatment of migrant workers and local workers is widening year by year.
Will such a low-wage model affect Taiwan’s ability to compete with other countries for the introduction of migrant workers in the future? Scholars, non-governmental organizations, and migrant workers’ groups shared their views on the nation-wide issue.
National Chung Cheng University (CCU, 國立中正大學) law professor Chou Chao-yu (周兆昱)pointed out that Japan and Korea have both joined the battle for migrant workers in Southeast Asian countries, and their minimum wages are much higher than that in Taiwan.
Therefore, if Taiwan’s low wages for foreign family care workers continue, the situation will become even more unfavorable and will fail to attract talented people to work in Taiwan.
What’s more, Japan can even grant permanent residency to foreign immigrant workers who have obtained professional qualifications in domestic nursing services (known in Japanese as nursing welfare workers— a professional license that requires passing a national examination).
This is provided to attract professional nursing staff from countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia to work in Japan.
In contrast, domestic caregivers in Taiwan receive low wages and have no possibility of obtaining permanent residency, which is not attractive to migrant workers.
桃園市家庭看護工職業工會（Domestic Caretaker UNION）領袖之一的Bonang Sanchez向《四方報》表示，「我們每天幾乎是24小時待命，沒有休假日，要為長輩把屎把尿，難道就只值1萬7000元的基本工資嗎？這麼辛苦又廉價的勞動水準，幾乎沒有台灣年輕人會願意做」。
Bonang Sanchez, one of the leaders of the Domestic Caretaker UNION in Taoyuan City explained, “We are on call almost 24 hours a day, with no days off, and we have to take care of the elders feces and urine.”
“This is such a hard form of labor that almost no young people in Taiwan would be willing to do; in this case, are we only worth NT$17,000 of minimum wage?”
He also pointed out that Taiwan’s manpower in the long-term caregiver sector is tight, with the primary source of foreign nurses currently in Taiwan hailing from Indonesia.
On the other hand, domestic caregivers from the Philippines are a relatively small pool, as they can usually speak English, and can go to more advanced countries to seek employment.
If the policy is not improved in the future, the Taiwanese government will find itself in a tough situation where it will be more difficult to attract qualified migrant workers.
“Taiwan’s aging population will not slow down and the demand for caregivers will only increase. The government should reform the current system and enact legislation to protect the labor rights of domestic workers,” Sanchez added.
Another representative of the Indonesian labor organization GANAS COMMUNITY Fajar said that many Indonesian migrant workers do not know the real labor situation and related laws of domestic migrant workers before coming to Taiwan, but simply believe that they can find a better job in Taiwan.
Therefore, even though they are poorly treated and are not protected by the Labor Standards Act, it has little impact on the willingness of Indonesian migrant workers to come to work in Taiwan.
The Director of Migrant Worker Policy Division of Taoyuan City’s Serve the People Association, Mr. Wong Ying-Dah (汪英達), analyzed that Taiwan’s low wage model will indeed filter out some migrant workers’ willingness to come to Taiwan; however, for some migrant workers who are not qualified enough to go to other countries, they will still stay in Taiwan to endure the current labor treatment.
“Japan and Korea offer higher wages to migrant workers, but the threshold is also higher, and language skills are often required,” Wong said.
“However, many migrant workers who do not come from an academic background, have not received higher education or have no professional skills will have to settle for the second-best and stay in Taiwan, where the requirements are lower.”
He also pointed out that because of age discrimination in some industries, many factory workers are eliminated from the industry when they reach a certain age and have to switch to domestic work because there is no age limit for domestic workers.
“The poor labor conditions of domestic migrant workers in Taiwan will certainly have some elimination effect, but sadly, there will still be migrant workers who cannot afford to go to Japan and Korea and have no choice but to stay in Taiwan to work as caregivers; therefore, there will not be a significant impact on the demand for long-term care manpower in Taiwan for a while.”