So here I am during the work makeup day. This is a fair and legal day for every company in Taiwan to exploit their workers because we get a “make up day off” next Friday as part of the Tomb Sweeping festival. But it is a dated, backward, and unproductive practice, and part of a broken labor system that demoralizes an already tired workforce, and it should be dismantled.
Demoralizing an already tired workforce
Is it completely necessary to have us work on Saturday just because of an extended weekend? I’m not in a position to do a search on this, but I know that in America such a policy would be laughed at, and other advanced countries have never adopted this either. Why would any foreign professionals want to work in such a backward labor environment?
I mean, do we have to give our employer an extra day of work for every day we take off?
Just give us a day off! What’s so hard about that? If it’s an extended holiday, what’s one more day off in the 200+ days that we work a year going to do? Is one day so important that we have to work on a weekend and sacrifice our shopping, playing, fixing the house and other chores, and precious time with our family? We all hate life right now and we are unproductive.
請讓我們存粹放假吧！這有什麼難的？ 如果這是一個連假，我們每年工作200天以上，多一天休息有什麽影響？ 一天這麼重要，我們必須在周末工作，犧牲我們的購物，玩耍，修理房子和其他家事，並且與家人在一起的寶貴時間。 我們都討厭今天來上班，而且我們今天上班沒有什麼效益。
Also, this policy isn’t good for the economy. We don’t have another day to spend our disposable income! It’s the best weather of the year right now too! If I had time I would be out and about and putting money into some tourist spot with a beach.
此外，這項政策對經濟不利。 我們沒有其他時間花我們的多餘收入！ 現在也是今年最好的天氣！ 如果我有時間，我會出去散散步，把錢放到沙灘的旅遊景點上。
And what about the seventh day Adventists? Isn’t this policy infringing on their religious liberty?
Are we actually doing anything productive now on this work makeup day? No, not at all. We are totally overworked and have nothing to look forward to, except a very distant tomb sweeping day extended weekend. Why do we give ourselves a one day weekend when some European countries are already implementing a 3 day weekend system? Are we sweatshop workers?
現在我們在這個補班日實際上是否做了一些富有成效的工作？一點也不。 我們完全過度勞累，沒有什麼值得期待的，除了一個非常遙遠的清明節週連假。 為什麼我們給自己周休一日，但是一些歐洲國家已經實施了周休三日？ 我們是血汗工廠工人嗎？
I worked in a sweatshop in China as part of an internship during the winter of 2014. It was a shoe factory. We worked every Saturday, and most of the workers only got 2 Sundays off a month. Less than two decades ago, Taiwan was in a similar situation; everyone worked at least a half day on Saturday. This might explain why they are taking so long to change their labor policy, but there is more to the story.
2014年冬季，我曾在中國的一家血汗工廠工作。這是一家鞋廠。 我們每個星期六都工作，大多數工作人員每個月只得到2個星期日的休假。 不到二十年前，台灣也處於類似情況; 每個人在星期六至少工作了半天。 這可能也是為什麼臺灣花了很長時間來改變他們的勞動政策，但這個故事還有更多細節。
A Wider Problem
Taiwan has some of the highest working hours in the world, ranking in the top 3, behind Mexico and Singapore and it’s getting worse. However Singapore has an advanced economy and workers are getting compensation 90,000 NT per month for new employees. Starting salaries in Shanghai and Shenzhen have also risen above Taiwan’s.
台灣擁有世界上第三高的工作時間，在墨西哥和新加坡的後面，情況正在惡化。 然而，新加坡經濟發達，新員工每月可獲得9萬新台幣的補償。 在上海深圳起薪也上升了台灣。
Taiwan has been giving its workers less and less days off overtime, in exchange for more “annual leave” that may or may not be used.
In 2015 2 people died every month form overwork in Taiwan, and its rising now.
The new labor standards change this year raises the weekly working hours from 46 to 54. The 2018 change to be able to work 12 days in a row is destroying the 5 day work week principle, as well as worker’s rights to rest, not to mention all the illegal work and overtime going on in Taiwan under the table.
In order to pass this bill into law, a survey was put out by the legislative yuan, not a third party. They interviewed 800 people over house phones during the day time, which would be old people and housewives, which do not have day jobs. It was reported that 66% of people don’t understand this law, and yet 57% support it, does that make any sense to you? Anyway, the government bowed to big business and immorally passed it into law.
為了將這項法案通過法律，立法院沒有用第三方進行了一項調查。 他們在白天採訪了800以上的家庭電話，這將是沒有日常工作的老年人和家庭主婦。 據報導，66％的人不了解這項法律，但有57％的人支持，這有道理嗎？ 無論如何，政府向大企業屈服，不道德地將其方案為法律。
But let’s talk about the real elephant in the room. Most Taiwanese workers cannot join unions and voice their rights as workers. In Taiwan, a company needs 30 or more employees before it can make a workers union, which is only 3% of total companies in Taiwan. For most other Asian countries, this number is less than 7. If more Taiwanese people were able to form their own unions, perhaps we wouldn’t have such backward labor laws.
讓我們來談談真正的大問題。 大多數台灣工人不能加入工會，並以工人的身份表達自己的權利。 在台灣，一家公司需要30多名員工才能組建工會，這只佔台灣公司總數的3％。 對於大多數其他亞洲國家來說，這個數字還不到7位就可以組織工會。如果更多的台灣人能夠組建自己的工會，也許我們不會有這樣落後的勞動法。
Taiwan wants to keep its competitive edge as a place with low cost of labor, but it is shooting itself in the foot. Right now, most factories are using cheap immigrant labor from Southeast Asia (that are more like bonded slaves). They should instead invest in robot technology in factories, which are more efficient and productive, and leave inhumane work for the non-humans.
台灣希望保持其競爭優勢，成為勞動力成本低廉的地方，但它卻在傷害自己。 目前，大多數工廠都在使用東南亞的廉價移民勞工（更像是奴隸）。 他們應該在機器人技術方面投資於工廠，這些工廠效率更高，生產效率更高，並且廢除非人性的工作。
Last makeup work day, I took the day off just to spite the system. But now I am here to moan complain and write a rant in my spare time at work (On a good note my boss has treated us all to some delicious milk drink for our labors this day).
Taiwan needs to give its workers back their rest days and their weekends. It also needs to lower the limit for labor unions, so that workers can fight for their rights and continue to lobby to improve the law. When this happens, Taiwan workers will be happier, more productive, and willing to stay. Otherwise, the brain drain will continue, and foreign professionals will not want to work here.
台灣需要還給員工他們的休息日和周末。 臺灣還需要降低工會的限制，以便工人可以爭取自己的權利，並繼續遊說以改善法律。 這樣的話，台灣勞工會更快樂，更富有成效，願意留下來。 否則，人才流失將繼續，外國專業人士也不會想在這里工作。
Will my complaining change the situation? I hope so. I hope to live to see the day that we can do away with this silly, self-defeating practice of cutting out our weekends just so we can take a future holiday. Until then, I will accept the Taiwan local laws as they are because I chose to be here as an expat, and I’m willing to take the good with the bad. But there’s a good chance I’ll take the day off next time.
我的抱怨會改變這個情況嗎？ 但願如此。 我希望能活下去看看我們能否取消這種愚蠢的，自我挫敗的政策。 在那之前，我會接受台灣當地的法律，因為我選擇住在這裏，而且我願意接受這些壞事。 但下次我有機會就會休假。
For those who can't read Chinese characters, the girl on the left represents "taking the day off" and the girl on the right is “work makeup day." Its a deep meme I know.
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This past Sunday, a tragic event occurred in which an Indonesian caregiver named Panti fell from an 11 storey building in Taichung to her death, in an attempted escape from her employer. She apparently accidentally slipped to her death. Along with her body were found a bag of her possessions. She tried to escape many times previously, but was forced to stay with her employer. The security guard at the apartment building was told to block her if she attempted to escape.
Does this sound like a woman with basic human freedoms?
上個星期天，發生了一起悲慘事件，一名印尼護理人員叫Panti從台中一座11層高的樓房中墜落，並企圖逃離雇主。 她顯然意外地滑倒死亡。 隨著她的身體被發現一袋她的個人物品。 她曾多次試圖逃離，但被迫留在雇主手中。 如果她試圖逃跑的話，公寓裡的保安人員被告知要封鎖她。
Below I will give an overview of the current situation of migrant workers in Taiwan, as well as examples from personal stories of the migrant workers themselves, as well as solutions to the problem.
Basic Facts about Migrant Workers in Taiwan:
As fellow foreigners in Taiwan, we care about other foreigners in Taiwan, no matter what country they are from. This is by no means a comprehensive blog, but only written to raise awareness on this issue. There are countless personal stories from over 600,000 migrant workers in Taiwan and statistics that should be shared. Unfortunately, many of these workers do not have a voice or even basic human rights in Taiwan. We want to give them a voice and hope these people are not forgotten.
作為台灣的外國人，我們關心台灣的其他外國人，不管他們來自哪個國家。 這絕不是一個全面的部落格，而只是為了提高對這個問題的認識。 我們應該分享台灣六十多萬外籍勞動的無數個人故事。 不幸的是，這些工人中很多人在台灣沒有發言權甚至沒有基本人權。 我們想給他們一個聲音，希望這些人不會被遺忘。
Discrimination against Southeast Asian Foreigners ：
Many Taiwanese see Southeast Asians as desirable workers but not desirable citizens. This is due to discrimination based on the low socioeconomic status of Southeast Asian countries. Taiwanese people give higher status to countries with stronger economies. Taiwanese value Korea, Japan, Singapore and mimic their culture, while on the other hand they look down on poorer countries.
Currently due to the southbound policy more and more Southeast Asian tourists are coming to Taiwan, but this is overshadowed by the human rights abuses against Southeast Asian Migrant workers. Currently there are 200,000 students in Taiwan with foreign Southeast Asian parents, one in 10. The numbers for first and second generation immigrants is greater than the indigenous population of Taiwan. However, these students are often discriminated against because of their parent’s speaking a foreign language, and thus are perceived to do worse in Chinese language and other studies, due to their parent’s poor Chinese and lack of Education.
Taiwan media is usually unsympathetic to their plight, portraying them as only runaways that do not want to work. But the fact is that they run away usually because of abuse from their employer. Those employers that are prosecuted usually get away with minimal penalties, and if there is a jail term it is usually for less than one year
Coming to Taiwan 來台:
Before coming to Taiwan, many migrant workers must go through an application process, and if chosen, may be required to pay excessive broker fees up to 14,000 USD or more. These workers also need to pay for training. In order to pay for these fees, many of them need to take out loans from lending companies that are one in the same as the brokers, trapping them in “debt bondage.” Some of these loanshave up to 60% annual interest. If they cannot make payments, lending companies and migrant brokers are known to give death threats to the workers and their family.
Exploitative deductions for rent or services that are not actually real are commonplace. Rides to the airport, medical examinations, and help to fill out documentation are often charged excessive fees. For instance, migrant workers are known to have to pay 2000 NT for a van to the airport from Taipei when a taxi is only just over 1000 NT. Brokers often mistreat their workers, and use corrupt practices to exploit them.
Workers from Southeast Asia are not allowed to write paperwork for an ARC themselves, and must pay a broker for this service (even though it is easy for many white collar foreigners to do this themselves). They are also not covered under the labor standards act, giving their employers almost unlimited power to overwork and exploit them. It is simply hypocrisy that the act fails to protect the most vulnerable workers from exploitation, foreign migrants. Although agricultural work is illegal, some foreign workers have been known to be put to farm work when on paper they are domestic caretakers. One such worker, Merly Ramos, happened upon this situation, and was given only one day off for an entire year before she informed the authorities.
Human trafficking happens under the radar in Taiwan through fake marriages, deceitful employment contracts, smuggling, sexual exploitation, and forced labor. Many human trafficking victims are mistaken for illegal immigrants, and are locked away in unsanitary prisons with no medical facilities, or deported.
Foreign Caregivers 外籍長照:
House caregivers have a minimum wage of 17,000 NT a month, compared to the 21,008 minimum wage for Taiwanese citizens under the labor standards act. Contracts with an employer usually last for 3 years, during which they cannot switch employers. Previously after the contract ended, they were forced to go back to their home country, but thankfully that regulation has been abolished as of this year.
During their time of work, many brokers hold onto the worker’s passports or ARC, preventing the workers from leaving the country as well as other things such as purchasing a phone. Brokers often fine runaways or deport them, even though this is technically illegal. While in their domestic roles, migrant caretakers are often victims of sexual harassment, sexual offences, and rape. One such case is Annie, who was sexually assaulted by all five of her previous employers.
A few years ago a documentary about foreign migrant workers called “I have it maid” (快跑三十六小時) was produced to tell the personal stories of these migrant caregivers. After seeing the film, many Taiwanese people were surprised that the situation was as bad as it is.
The film tells a story about a runaway blue collar worker named Vicky and the filmmakers are advocating her story to try and help her. If you have time, please see the film here on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fq5gkyVlFg
Perhaps modern day slavery is most prevalent in Taiwan’s fishing industry. Migrant fishermen are also not covered by labor standards act standards, subject to exploitation, and have no set minimum wage. Also, rest time and breaks are only set by standard contract. Officially there are around 20,000 migrant fishermen, but organizations such as Greenpeace say there could be up to 160,000. Many fishermen are not registered legally, and are not in Taiwan books.
Many fisherman only stay on the boats they work on and never enter Taiwan, or their boats are registered overseas, so it hard to keep track of these foreign migrant fisherman. The ILO has said that Taiwan's Fisheries Agency's system of management and protection of migrant fishers is "loose and unregulated".
Many fishermen are abused, beaten, cut with hooks, and killed. Once a migrant fisherman dies, the captain has right to throw body overboard, getting rid of any evidence of the cause of death. Many migrant fisherman are exploited in this way, such as this story about 1,000 Cambodian men。 They were originally promised 150 USD a month, then only got paid half, were underfed, beaten, and couldn’t communicate with family. For many, their only escape was to jump overboard.
This last September, it was found that 19 Taiwanese fisherman were prosecuted for keeping a group of 81 Indonesian fisherman locked in a room around the clock to prevent them from escaping. They were forced to work 48 hours at a time with no breaks and for 300-500 USD a month.
The 19 Taiwanese men faced possible jail time of up to 7 years, and authorities confiscated 3.69 million TWD as compensation payback for the migrant fisherman.
Mostly disputes between migrant fisherman and their employers are “hands-off” for the government, who wishes the disputes be solved between the employer and for-profit migrant brokers, who almost always side in behalf of the employer. Often the government will require time cards or pay slips as evidence, which simply don’t exist. Many workers are threatened or even deported for having labor disputes, and many are afraid to talk to the authorities.
Summary and Solutions 總結和解決方案:
Labor conditions for foreign migrants haven’t improved in more than 10 years and new legislation is slow to come by. These problems are not being fixed because government and business want extra profits that come from hiring cheap labor, and Southeast Asians lack money. The biggest problem comes from the broker system which “traps” immigrant workers in debt and exploits their salary. A proper solution would be to get rid of the broker system and let the migrants be directly hired. In fact, broker systems are technically illegal in the Philippines, even though there are many Taiwan brokers operating there. However, abolishing these brokers in Taiwan will be difficult. Lawmaker Lin Shu fen has received death threats from brokers for trying improving foreign workers rights. The brokers have power politically and move to stop all new legislation for migrant workers, as it cuts their profits. They are like slave traders, making money off of human capital.
In September, a “mock” referendum, which would hypothetically allow migrant workers the right to freely change employers was started by the Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT). The mock referendum ends at the end of December. So far, over 90% of voters have supported it. However, what Taiwan needs is a real referendum. For more information, visit their Facebook Page here
The 2017 Trafficking in Person’s Report by the US State Department美國國務院2017年“販賣人口報告”
This report details human trafficking in Taiwan. Due to improvements in the last few years, Taiwan has been moved from a Tier-2 country to Tier-1. However, improvements are still sorely needed. A summary of the report is as follows:
這份報告詳細介紹了在台灣販賣人口 由於近幾年來的改善，台灣已經從二線國家轉移到了一線。 但是，仍然需要改進。 報告摘要如下：
What Taiwan Should improve:
Taiwan should improve labor protection and prosecution for migrant fishermen. Also, There is a long-stalled bill meant to help standardize wage, rest hours, and annual leave for domestic workers, that has yet to be enacted.
This year there were 263 sex trafficking victims, 156 of whom were foreigners and 89 of which were children. The other victims were from poorer areas of Taiwan. Some Taiwanese victims have also been recruited to telephone scams overseas or to overseas prostitution. Taiwan has also unlawfully also jailed and fined trafficking victims.
The report also pointed out that many brokers trap migrant workers with “debt bondage” to control them and extort their money. Those migrant workers that complain are often deported.
How Taiwan has improved in 2017:
Despite the jailing of trafficking victims, the MOF has created a 24 hour hotline for such victims as well as 25 shelters nationwide which provide legal and mental help, stipends, repatriation, training, and interpretation.
Also, in the past year Taiwan has fined 6 and shut down 4 brokers charging excessive fees. In addition, the policy indicating foreign migrants leave every 3 years has been abolished. The authorities have also standardized the Fisherman’s contract, requirements for basic wages, rest hours, and days off, as well as requiring the broker be a company and not an individual.
New Employers are also required to attend classes before they hire on domestic workers.
Summary of Solutions 解決方案總結：
The slave-like conditions and exploitation of foreigner blue collar laborers is a shame to Taiwan. You never hear of any white collar worker runaways because they can change employers at will, but blue collar workers simply can’t. Human rights of blue collar workers need to be brought to white collar level. As fellow foreigners in Taiwan, we should all work together to raise awareness to these worker’s situations and personal stories. Perhaps we can help to push new legislation to protect our fellow foreigners. We should not forget Panti, who died in the process of trying to switch employers, and not let her death be in vain.
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We are US Expats that have extensive experience living and working in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.