Written by Chan-Yuan Wong, Ker-Hsuan Chien, and Mei-Chih Hu. As the world enters the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, Taiwan – previously acknowledged as a Covid-free nation – encountered a new outbreak in mid-May 2021. This wave of infection has been deemed critical, as the number of infection cases has surpassed 700, and the infectivity rate is as contagious as measles. To date, Taiwan encountered 635 death cases related to Covid-19 – of which 98% are attributed to the recent outbreak since 15 May 2021.
Written by Iweng Karsiwen and Ratih Kabinawa. Edited by Isabelle Cheng. A former domestic worker in Hong Kong for over ten years, Iweng Karsiwen is currently the Chair of Families of Indonesian Migrant Workers (Kabar Bumi). Initially she was recruited to work in Taiwan when the door opened for Indonesian women seeking domestic work there. However, instead of going to Taiwan, Iweng found herself arriving at a Hong Kong MTR station late one evening a year later. Knowing how the brokering industry functioned at home and abroad, after returning to Indonesia, Iweng was determined to help those who worked abroad and who faced similar challenges at various stage of their migration. She has particularly campaigned to outlaw salary reduction. This, as well as other practices mentioned by Iweng, are commonly adopted by brokers in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.
Written by Michael C.Y. Lin. Taiwan’s success in battling the novel coronavirus has promoted its international image, attracting businesses, investment, and a skilled workforce to the country. These trends offer Taiwan a potential opportunity to deepen its talent pool. Over the past two decades, Taiwan has experienced stagnant real wage growth, driving out skilled domestic workers and discouraging overseas Taiwanese talent from returning to their homeland. In particular, talent outflow from Taiwan to China has raised serious concerns.
Written by Bonny Ling. On 28 January 2021, public prosecutors in Taichung indicted four individuals on charges of human trafficking, violations of the Employment Services Act and forgery of documents for their role in exploiting Vietnamese migrant workers in Taiwan. The four involved worked at the Hong Yu Employment Service Agency Company (弘宇人力仲介公司) in Taichung to recruit migrant workers from Vietnam. Established in 2017, Hong Yu placed 126 Vietnamese migrant workers in the construction sector around Taiwan from July 2018 to August 2020.
Written by Nguyễn Thị Thanh Hà and Isabelle Cheng. It has been more than three decades since Southeast Asian nationals began to work and establish their families in Taiwan. Men and women from the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia fill the labour shortage in construction, fishing, manufacturing, care and agricultural industries, whilst the women became members of Taiwanese society because of their marriage and family formations. This ongoing regional migration flow has enriched the socio-cultural landscape of Taiwan, where multiculturalism becomes the prevailing normative value that respects and appreciates differences. Nevertheless, this development has not been smooth or unchallenged.
Written by Ratih Kabinawa. In an attempt to raise awareness about the lives of marginalised groups in Taiwan, the Taiwan Studies Programme at the University of Nottingham, U.K., organised a movie screening and discussion – Migrant Lives Matter: ‘Nine Shots’ – that showcased the dark side of migrant labour recruitment and employment in Taiwan. The film reveals some perspectives from different stakeholders, including labour advocacy networks, in addressing problems related to Taiwan’s labour migration system. Using the movie as a prompt, this article explores various advocacy networks and migrant labour movements in Taiwan. Why and how do these networks emerge and organise themselves? What are their motivations and activities? And how do these networks advocate for policy change and work to build solidarity to empower migrant workers?
Written by Bonny Ling. Since late-July 2020, a diplomatic row has embroiled the governments of Indonesia and Taiwan over who in principle should pay the cost of recruitment for low-skilled workers seeking jobs abroad. To date, the industry norm is that low-skilled migrant workers pay these fees of recruitment or placement to labour brokers in their home country, months before they begin their work and see their first pay. In order to secure a job abroad, many borrow heavily to pay for these recruitment costs upfront.
Written by Santanu Sarkar and Mei-Chun Liu. The independent labour movement is at a crossroads. The DPP’s campaign for independence will reduce jobs as the mainland will curb exports and investment in Taiwan, whereas defending unification will rob Taiwanese jobs as the mainland friendly KMT will not hesitate to liberalise the economy so that the outflow of foreign investment increases alongside privatisation.