Pregnant migrant workers in Taiwan face dilemma of keeping jobs or their babies

When migrant workers fall pregnant in Taiwan, they are often faced with the dilemma of choosing their jobs or their children. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — It’s quite natural for migrant workers to establish an active social life or start a family during their stay in Taiwan; however, female migrant workers are often inappropriately dismissed by employers or face great pressure if they become pregnant, leading to them having to resort to drastic, sometimes illegal measures, to keep their jobs.

In May 2021, a 31-year-old Filipino migrant worker gave birth to a baby girl in a dormitory in Taoyuan City. However, because she was unable to support her daughter, she bagged the baby and abandoned her next to a trash can in a dark lane, which led to her arrest soon after.

The case came under scrutiny later on with many pointing out the lose-lose situation many female migrant workers face.

Huang Tzu-hua (黃姿華), a representative of the Domestic Caretakers Union Taoyuan (桃園市家庭看護工職業工會), defended the migrant worker and pointed out that “if Taiwan’s social and administrative units could have a resettlement system for migrant workers, they would not need to resort to such drastic measures.”

Local Chinese-language media reported that the Filipino migrant worker was an employee of a technology company located in Guishan District, Taoyuan City. While working in Taiwan, she met another migrant worker and struck up a relationship with him.

She later discovered she was pregnant but was concerned that she would not be able to support her child and herself. When the child was born on May 13, she did the unthinkable and wrapped her baby in a towel and stuffed her in a bag, abandoning her beside a dumpster in an alley.

The baby was later discovered by passers-by who heard her cries and the police were alerted. After viewing security cameras, the police were able to locate the woman, who was later charged with child abandonment when the prosecution determined that she wrapped the baby in a towel to prevent her from freezing to death, eliminating suspicions of attempted murder.

As she had no previous criminal record and expressed regret after committing the crime and confessing to the police, she was given a lighter sentence and was put on probation.

The incident shed light on a bigger issue in Taiwan where though the “Act of Gender Equality in Employment” (性別工作平等法) is applicable to migrant workers, in actuality, many still face the risk of being dismissed after falling pregnant.

In addition, local shelters available to these women have limited capacity and funds and the government lacks a comprehensive placement system to take care of such workers, leading to repetition of such tragic cases.

Huang also pointed out the problems in present shelters, where centers subsidized by the Ministry of Labor (MOL, 勞動部) require both the mothers and the infants to be admitted. However, migrant workers cannot always accept to stay at these types of temporary shelters and not work. On top of that, due to the pandemic, many migrant workers also face difficulties in sending their children back home.

“Taiwan lacks a sound support system for these migrant workers. Oftentimes, where there are support systems, it’s made up of other migrant workers who are limited by the same restrictions,” Huang said.

“Pregnancy is already hard enough as it is; rearing a child after their born is even more difficult,” she added.

Huang shared another instance where a domestic migrant worker who was about to give birth was faced with the difficulty of nearing her due date. Even though her employers respected her and needed her, there were still some trepidations of letting her bring her newborn home

Although her employer actively helped her seek a shelter plan from the local department of social welfare, hoping to find a nursery to take care of the child for a while and have the parents pay for the child’s expenses like other Taiwanese who have difficulty raising their child, they did not receive any official response.

Huang pointed out that if the government could establish a centralized shelter system to provide migrant workers with more viable choices, maybe then they wouldn’t be pushed to commit crimes like abandonment.