Written by Yi-Yu Lai. Lennon Wong is the director of a shelter for migrant workers in Taiwan. Before joining the shelter in the early 2010s, he was already a labour activist and worked in the Chinese Federation of Labour and the First Commercial Bank Union. Although his prior work was not directly relevant to migrant workers in Taiwan, his engagement with the labour movement may have started with the issue of migrant workers from Southeast Asia. As a result, we may thus understand the cross-border movement of migrant workers between Taiwan and the Philippines through some of his observations.
Written by Hsuan Lo. Translated by Yi-Yu Lai. In Taiwan, a narrative concerning the opposition of migrant and Indigenous workers appears to be a continuing source of contention. In 1997, director Ming-hui Yang released a documentary, “Please Give Us a Job.” One of the film’s impressive scenes depicts an off-duty Indigenous worker sobbing uncontrollably in front of the camera while lamenting the employment difficulties caused by the introduction of migrant workers. In 2016, Chen Ying, a DPP legislator from the Puyuma Indigenous community, brought this issue back into the public eye by highlighting the impact of “illegal migrant workers” on the employment of Indigenous workers. Unfortunately, the notion that “migrant workers take jobs from Indigenous workers” has become deeply ingrained.
Written by Jackson Teh. In crux, we should note the link between the general public’s health, both physically and mentally, with that of the migrant workers: only when local community cases are stable, and their sentiments positive, are migrant workerss allowed to move around and go to work; only when migrant workerss move around and go to work, can they feel better and hopeful about themselves and the future. Therefore, the mental well-being of both groups in a country must not be seen as isolated variables.
Written by Shao-Yun Chang (張韶韻) and Hang-Tang Chen (陳翰堂). Since their labour was first viewed as a supplement to the domestic labour market, Southeast Asian migrants have become indispensable to the manufacturing, agricultural, fishing, and care industries over the last three decades. While the initial foreign population was primarily Thai and Filipino workers, Vietnamese and Indonesian workers are now taking over factory jobs, farm work, and caring for seniors and the disabled.
Written by Brian Hioe. The Tsai Administration announced new plans to allow residency from blue-collar migrant workers on February 17th, with the Executive Yuan signing off on a plan that would allow migrant workers to secure residency if they are classified as “intermediate skilled manpower” by their employers.
Written by Huynh Tam Sang and Wen-Chin Cheng. Taiwan’s labour brokerage system has made migrant workers vulnerable to a myriad of untransparent fees. Under the current system, migrant workers must pay hefty fees, including service fees and related pre-employment fees for migrant labour agencies or brokers, adding up to the total amount ranging from NT$60,000 to NT$200,000. To make matters worse, the current system has allowed brokers to charge migrant workers a monthly recurring fee, from NT$1,500 to NT$1,800. The “service fee”, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Labour, is used to arrange work and daily life for migrant workers. However, brokers or agencies charge employers “very few or no fees”, shifting the disproportionate financial burden onto migrant workers.
Narrated by Yosa Wariyanti, written by Isabelle Cheng. I have spent a total of 16 years abroad. When we return home, we have our savings, and we may open businesses. But businesses do not always go well. It is difficult for us to find jobs because we do not have good education or professional certificates. No one would hire us. Soon my daughter will go to university. I want to give her a good education. I need to work for at least another five years to pay for her tuition fees. So, I will just go on, and on, and on working abroad.
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 Yi-Yu Lai. As an anthropologist who studies Indigenous movements in the Philippine highlands, my experiences of beauty pageants’ are not rare. The beauty pageant has been culturally entrenched in the Philippines and its diasporic communities for many decades. Because these contests are very popular with Filipinos, some Indigenous youth advocates use them as an instrument for cultural activism, empowering participants and attracting those who were previously indifferent to political issues. Nevertheless, the Filipino beauty pageants of Taiwan are quite different from those I previously experienced.
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.