CTCB Bank office building in Nangang, Taipei
Taiwan's working environment can be confusing to those who are learning about this topic for the first time. There is a different work culture here than in other countries, and expectations in the workplace are not the same. In this blog, we will answer some frequently asked questions about working in Taiwan.
Foreword: Please note that in the following blog I will share my personal views. As you can tell, I am biased and I prefer American work culture. Overall, I think Taiwan's work culture is stuck in the past, is based on a manufacturing economy, and needs to improve to accommodate modern office work.
My views are based on my experience of working in very traditional Taiwanese work cultures over ten years in Taiwan. Not every Taiwanese company has these problems and some foreigners in Taiwan are lucky to work for companies with more western oriented work culture, but according to my experience with others working in Taiwan as normal employees (not on secondment assignments) the following will be true.
How are communication styles different between Taiwan and the West?
Taiwanese communication style is more indirect, formal, and hierarchical, while American communication style is more direct and informal.
In Taiwan, it is customary to show respect to authority figures and senior colleagues by using formal titles and deferential language. Direct confrontation is also avoided, and criticism is often delivered in an indirect manner. In contrast, Americans tend to be more direct in their communication style, often speaking their mind freely and openly expressing their opinions. Hierarchy is another area where Taiwanese and American work cultures diverge. In Taiwan, hierarchy is deeply ingrained in the culture, with respect and deference paid to those in positions of authority.
As an American, I have learned this the hard way. You will not last long in a traditional Taiwanese company if you are always speaking your mind freely and talking back to superiors; in Taiwan, this can be seen as insubordination and having a bad work attitude. It is better to try to address problems indirectly, such as through another coworker or superior, and avoid direct confrontation if at all possible. The only exception to this is bosses or supervisors who can be very curt and direct to their subordinates, but their subordinates are not allowed to talk directly back.
Alternatively, Taiwanese working in America can be criticized for not speaking up or contributing their thoughts to the team.
How are management styles different between Taiwan and the West?
In terms of power distance, Taiwan has a high power distance work culture, while America has a low power distance work culture.
This means that in Taiwan, decision-making is centralized, there is a strong command structure and set hierarchy, formal communication is required, and employees have little say regarding the management of the company.
This is reflected in workplace structures, where managers are often seen as authoritative figures who are not to be questioned. In the United States, however, the culture is more informal, with less emphasis on hierarchy and more on teamwork and collaboration. There are also differences in the way that tasks are approached in each culture. In Taiwan, there is a tendency to be meticulous and precise, with a focus on getting every detail right. This reflects the culture's values of hard work and attention to detail. In contrast, Americans tend to be more results-oriented, with a focus on achieving objectives quickly and efficiently.
Part of the reason that employees in Taiwan are so submissive to their leaders has a lot to do with Chinese culture, where respect for elders is paramount. In addition, Taiwanese schools and the education system, in general, teaches children to listen to what the teacher has to say and not ask questions; asking questions or sharing one's own opinion can be a sign of contempt for the teacher or a lack of understanding.
Contrastingly, in America there is more decentralization of power, status, and formality are not as important, employees are encouraged to share their thoughts and opinions freely, and it is easy to approach and communicate openly with company leaders.
This can also be linked to America's school system. America's school system in contrast teaches students freedom of expression, thinking outside of the box, and asking thought-provoking questions. Respect for authority is not emphasized, but rather it is expected that teachers earn the respect of their students.
It doesn't help that most businesses in Taiwan are family-run and owned, and management stays rigidly in the family. This means that many times in Taiwan management is passed on to younger family members even if there are more skilled and experienced employees that can manage the company.
How are professionalism and formality different between Taiwan and the West?
Taiwanese culture places a high value on professionalism, with a focus on etiquette, manners, and proper conduct, while American culture is more casual and informal.
In Taiwan, looks are very important. It is important to management and coworkers to always look and act professionally, even if you are not completing work effectively or in a timely manner.
As an American working in Taiwan, I also had to learn this lesson the hard way. I have learned that the attitude I portray and paying attention to minor details is actually more important than the work results I put out in the eyes of my superiors.
How are details and goals different between Taiwan and the West?
Taiwanese workers tend to be meticulous and precise, with a focus on getting every detail right, while American workers tend to be more results-oriented.
This also means that Taiwanese people focus more on details and correct form, instead of the overall objective. Contrastingly, American work culture places more emphasis on substance and results, and employees are more casual in the workplace.
How is time orientation different between Taiwan and the West?
Taiwanese culture values long-term planning and prioritizes future outcomes, while American culture tends to prioritize present-oriented goals.
The overall mindset for Taiwanese workers is often to work in the same company for life, while American workers might be interested in a certain position for a shorter time and switch to another opportunity or career path once a project or goal is finished.
How is teamwork different between Taiwan and the West?
Taiwanese culture emphasizes teamwork and harmony, while American culture emphasizes individual achievement and competition.
In the USA, individualism is a core value that influences the way people approach work and life. Individualism emphasizes personal freedom, autonomy, and self-reliance. People are encouraged to take responsibility for their own lives and to pursue their own goals and dreams. This individualistic approach to life is also reflected in the workplace. American businesses tend to focus on individual achievement and performance, and employees are often evaluated based on their individual contributions to the organization.
Teamwork is highly valued in Taiwan. Taiwan is a collectivist culture where people prioritize the needs of the group over their individual desires. This collectivist approach to life is reflected in the workplace, where teamwork is emphasized and collaboration is encouraged. In Taiwanese companies, employees are often evaluated based on their ability to work well with others and contribute to the team’s success.
One of the reasons for this difference in values is the role that Confucianism has played in Taiwanese culture. Confucianism emphasizes the importance of family, community, and social order, and this has influenced the way Taiwanese people approach work and relationships. In the US, on the other hand, the Protestant work ethic has played a significant role in shaping the culture. This work ethic emphasizes individual responsibility and hard work as a means to achieve success.
How is overtime different between Taiwan and the West?
In Taiwan, it is common to work overtime without additional pay, while American labor laws typically require that employees be paid overtime for work beyond a certain number of hours.
Before coming to Taiwan, I had the expectation that I would be paid for any overtime I worked. However, I quickly learned that I was expected to work overtime for free every day, if only for a few minutes. Clocking out at exactly 5:30 was considered as having a bad attitude and showing a lack of effort.
In addition, I also soon found that it was my boss's expectation of me wanting me to check and reply to emails at night, on weekends, and on holidays and business trips. For instance, he would send me emails during the vacation to tell me to complete a task during the vacation.
Americans understand that long hours do not mean more effective work, but in the eyes of Taiwanese bosses, longer hours means more dedication and a more professional attitude.
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.
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 the 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.
How are holidays and vacations different between Taiwan and the West?
The number of public holidays in Taiwan is around 12 per year, while the number of public holidays in the US is about 10 (and can vary according to state).
However in the US, sick leave can be taken at will and is paid in full. In Taiwan, sick leave can only be taken when you can get a doctor's notice, which can be annoying especially when you are sick and do not want to leave the door.
In addition, according to a survey by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of paid vacation days for employees in private industry and state and local government in 2020 was about 10 days per year for employees with one year of service, and 15 days per year for employees with five years of service. However in Taiwan, most companies go by the Labor Standards Act, which gives employees that have worked one year or less only three paid vacation days. After one year, the employee earns seven vacation days, and after two years 10 vacation days.
In addition, Taiwan implements the work/school makeup day system, which means that employees are forced to work on Saturdays many times throughout the year. There are six makeup days in 2023!
This longer workweek in Taiwan is partly a reflection of the culture's strong work ethic, which places a high value on hard work and productivity.
How is work-life balance different between Taiwan and the West?
Taiwanese culture tends to prioritize work over leisure and personal life, while American culture places a greater emphasis on work-life balance and personal time.
In my personal experience, I think the economic development in Taiwan happened too fast, so the older generation doesn’t know what to do with their leisure time because they spent all their free time working while they were young. It seems older Taiwanese people don’t have hobbies but earn money just to earn money, not because they need money or they want to do something or achieve a life goal, but just because they like to work and earn money.
However, the younger generation likes leisure time more and knows how to enjoy themselves even with much smaller salaries.
This gap between older and younger generations is getting worse because no one in Taiwanese companies want to retire.
The older generation seems to live to work, while the younger generations work to live.
Also, you can forget about remote or hybrid working. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan never really went under lockdown, and office workers could always come to the office to work, therefore sadly hybrid and remote working never became a thing. Most traditional Taiwanese companies will not have this kind of option.
How are life goals and success measured different between Taiwan and the West?
In Taiwan, there is a strong emphasis on academic achievement and career success, with many people valuing a stable job and financial security. In the United States, success is often defined more broadly, with people valuing personal achievements and experiences in addition to career success.
In Taiwan, life goals and success are defined by working in the same company for your whole life and then finally retiring. There is also strong pressure from family to marry and produce children, especially for men.
In America, people tend to have more varied life goals such as accomplishing a certain project, learning skills, or advancing the corporate ladder. Success is also defined more in terms of single accomplishments over the span of a career.
Do you have any advice for westerners thinking about working in Taiwan?
The above advice for Americans in Taiwan is not good advice for being a productive worker.
However, if you want to survive long-term in a traditional Taiwanese corporate work environment, you should do all of the above. If you do, you will be able to keep your job and earn the affection of your boss. If not, something will eventually go wrong for you.
Again, the above is heartfelt and sincere advice for anyone that wants to survive long-term in a traditional Taiwanese work culture.
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.
In summary, the differences between Taiwanese and American work cultures are significant and can be attributed to the unique values and beliefs of each culture. Understanding these differences is crucial for anyone hoping to work effectively in either culture, as it allows them to navigate the workplace more successfully and build positive relationships with colleagues. I hope this information is helpful to others, especially westerners who want to come work in Taiwan professionally for the long term.
Why work in Taiwan?
Taiwan has a great living environment and is very friendly to foreigners. Many Taiwanese people want to improve their English and are interested in foreign culture. It is also a great place to learn Chinese. Taiwan is a clean, safe, modern, convenient, and free country with a thriving democratic government. Also, Taiwan has many great places to see and explore, eat, and the cost of living is relatively cheap.
How do I find work in Taiwan?
The best way to find work is to ask your existing connections, but there are also many websites that can help.
What are the best work finding websites in Taiwan?
This most popular work finding website in Taiwan, although the interface is only in Chinese (sorry), although some job postings are in English. Its worth checking out, even if you can’t read Chinese. Perhaps you can have a Chinese friend help you out.
This is probably the second most popular work finding site in Taiwan, this website's interface is also only in Chinese, although some job postings are in English.
This is a great English based website for English Teaching jobs in Taiwan.
Linkedin has a few job opportunities that are most in English.
Other than these, search Google. Who knows what you’ll find!
Why Teach English in Taiwan?
Teaching English can be a fun way to make a living if that’s what you’re into. The working hours are short and pay is relatively high in Taiwan (at least 48,000 NT per month, for about 30 hours a week). These jobs are only available for those with passports from English speaking nations. However, if singing songs and disciplining children is not your thing, then you probably won’t last long. Also, beware of bosses that will take advantage of you, giving you no time off and no overtime pay (you are allowed overtime pay and time off by law, as well as labor and health insurance).
Which bank should I use in Taiwan?
Most banks will let foreigners set up an account. Some handy accounts to have when shopping are with Cathay Pacific, which has the only Costco accepted credit card, CTCB which partners with PX Mart, and Yushan Bank which is aligned with Carrefour.
How do I open a Taiwan bank account?
Typically you can walk in to any bank, and open an account if you bring your passport and/or ARC. If you do not have an ARC, then you will need to apply for a Taiwan uniform ID number at the immigration office first.
If you are from a list of countries that is high risk because of money laundering it may be harder to open an account.
Also, if you are American you will have to sign a W9 or similar form because of FACTA.
What are the work regulations in Taiwan?
Please see our article on Taiwan’s Labor Standards Act. These regulations change regularly, so look at our latest blog on the topic.
Do I get pension as a foreigner in Taiwan?
Foreigners not married to a Taiwanese spouse are entitled to theold pension scheme, you must work for the same employer for 25 years or work for the same employer for 15 years and be at least 55 years old. Reaching this requirement is near impossible for most foreigners.
However, if you are married to a Taiwanese national, you are eligible for the new pension scheme, which is not based on your work tenure, and 6% of your salary paid by your employer, which can be redeemed at age 60.
Do I get labor insurance as a foreigner?
Do I get health insurance for me and my family in Taiwan?
Yes, if you have a job, but dependent family members have to wait6 months to join as of now.
Newborn foreign babies born in Taiwan are eligible immediately.
Do I have to pay taxes in Taiwan as a foreigner?
Yes, if you work in Taiwan. If you stay in Taiwan less than 183 days, you will be subject to 18% tax. For tax advise, please contact Grant Thornton Taiwan.
What are the tax rates in Taiwan?
You can check out our full Taiwan tax guide here.
Where can I get tax advise in Taiwan?
You can visit the Taiwan tax office.
What is the Taiwanese working environment/culture like?
This depends on where you work. For a typical Taiwanese company, the boss is very powerful and employees are more passive. It is typical for everyone to wait for the boss to leave before they get off work. So, as you can image, Taiwanese people work lots of overtime.
In addition, Taiwanese people like to have working connections, and give gifts to improve a relationship. If you take a gift such as chocolate from a coworker, or are treated to lunch, you are expected to eventually give back similar gift in return to keep the relationship going.
What is the average salary for foreigners in Taiwan?
The starting salary for a white collar foreigner is about 48000 NT per month, average salary for English teachers is 60,000-80,000 NT per month. However, foreign blue collar workers make about 20,000 NT per month or less. Foreign executives working in Taiwan make foreign salaries (typical US salaries), which are much higher than the average Taiwanese salary.
Can foreigners start a business in Taiwan?
Yes. Please read our blog on the subject.
Why live in Taiwan?
Taiwan is one of the best countries in the world with one of the best qualities of life. Taiwan boasts delicious food, great weather year round, amazing tourist sites, friendly people, cheap cost of living, and economic opportunity.
How is the water in Taiwan?
Filter or boil water in Taiwan, or buy bottled water. It is not safe to drink from the tap. Taipei has the cleanest water (meaning it requires the least filtration), while more rural areas are hit and miss.
Are there foreign schools for my children in Taiwan?
Yes, there are a number of American and European schools in Taiwan. Please clickhere for a full list.
What is it like to buy a house as a foreigner in Taiwan?
Check out our guide to buying a house in Taiwan here.
What is it like to rent an apartment as a foreigner in Taiwan?
Check out our guide to renting an apartment in Taiwan here.
What is it like working as an English teacher at a Cram School in Taiwan?
See our experience teaching at a cram school in Taiwan here.
Why are there work and school make up days in Taiwan?
Check out our guide to Taiwan's work and school make up days here.
What are the difference is work culture between Taiwan and the USA?
Check out our full blog on this topic here.
Is Taiwan safe?
Yes, Taiwan is one of the safest countries in the world according to Prescavve.
This is mainly due to low crime and high economic freedom and devolopment.
Have any more questions about work in Taiwan? Please leave them in the comments below, and we might just add them to the list!
Please like, follow, and share to help everyone know that Taiwan is a great place to work!
In an effort to treat foreign residents equally, Taiwan's Ministry of the Interior responded to complaints of foreign residents by changing the ARC Uniform ID numbering system to match the format used by Taiwan citizens. Because of this, every foreigner must change their ARC number the next time they change or update their ARC card starting Jan. 1 2021. So what do you need to do after your ARC number has changed?
There are roughly 750,000 legal foreign residents in Taiwan. All of them are individual people with different viewpoints and experiences. As a platform that calls itself "foreigners in Taiwan" we cannot represent every person at once. In fact, we are just Americans living in Taipei. Some people like to separate foreigners into different groups, but it is important to remember there is not just one type of foreigner, there are many of us and all of our voices should be heard.
Unfortunately, most foreigners in Taiwan are working in inhumane conditions, being exploited for cheap labor. Most of their hardships go unseen and unheard.
Buying a house in Taiwan can be confusing and stressful. It is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. To even consider buying a house in Taiwan, you have probably lived here for years, so many of the things I will mention in this blog may not be new to you.
I have spent quite a few years looking for houses and saving money for a down payment, as well as figuring out all the costs and other factors involved in purchasing the right house. Also, I recently just bought a house in Taipei in 2021. I have created this guide and FAQ to help people understand the buying process, finding the right house, and saving the right amount of money needed to make a move.
For our blog covering our actual experience buying a house, see this blog here.
For our blog covering our actual experience renovating a house, see this blog here.
The following is my personal insight as an American looking for houses mainly near Taipei City.
On the plane leaving Taiwan's Taoyuan Airport in 2014, I promised myself I would find a way to stay in Taiwan permanently. I had just finished a 90 day vacation on a visitor free visa, which included a round island trip, daily bike rides around Kaohsiung, and daily trips to the beach in Qijin. I was not going to let a 90 day visa stop me again from enjoying what still to me is the most beautiful Island in the world, and the most friendly place in the world to western foreigners.
So here I am during the work make-up day on a Saturday. 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 Dragon Boat 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
I am done renting apartments in Taiwan. I hope. I just bought an apartment here, so I think it is finally time to chronicle my experiences here for all to enjoy. I hope that some new foreigner will learn something from these experiences and not make the same mistakes.
In total I have rented four apartments in Taiwan. During that process I learned a lot about what to watch out for when you are looking for an apartment, especially from landlords and “amenities” provided.
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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Last year, the Tsai administration passed an amendment to the Taiwan Labor Standards Act that implemented a 5 day work day for everyone, along with other things such as more annual leave, 7 less national holidays, and restrictions to overtime.
Here is a good news article that gives background for those who are unfamiliar with the new law: http://englishnews.ftv.com.tw/read.aspx?sno=FE070FFEA86AC2869E1665CEDFD0E27A
Q and A:
Q: Is this important?
A: Yeah, it is. It’s a big deal for everyone working in Taiwan. The Labor Standards Act hasn’t been amended in over 30 years, and it is long overdue.
Q: Is it a good thing?
A: Yes. It’s not perfect overall but it is an improvement to society in general
Q: How will this affect Taiwan’s economy?
A: In my opinion, productivity and efficiency should increase in the workplace, and some jobs might go overseas. Labor costs may increase.
Q: What is this law changing?
A: 5 day work day for everyone (one set rest day and one flexible rest day), along with other things such as more annual leave, 7 less national holidays, more rights given to workers, and restrictions to overtime (overtime on rest days is multiplied, and no more than 46 hours of overtime can be clocked per week).
Q: How do foreigners feel about it?
A: We think it’s great. Please read our full opinion below.
Not a day goes by that I don’t hear about this law is in the news. Some people like it, some don’t. However, not a lot of people seem to really know what it is. I was one of those people, until I heard about a conference that would explain this law to a crowd of HR representatives. I got permission from my company to go. This conference was comprised of speakers featuring the former Taiwan labor minister and some professors from local Taiwan universities who were experts on this topic. Below is more or less a summary of what I learned there.
What this law is:
The fundamental part of this law is a 5 day work week; there are two days break every seven days. These two days are flexible. One of these days has to be the same day every week, like every Sunday (例假). The other day (休假) is more flexible, and can be any other day within the seven days. Also, this other day (休假) can be carried over to other weeks, up to eight weeks. This means that one week there might be 6 work days but the next week will only have 4 work days, etc. I don’t think I need to get into more detail here; suffice it to say that this day is flexible.
Thanks to this new law, salary for overtime on rest days is multiplied, and no more than 46 hours of overtime can be clocked per week. Overtime that goes over 2 hours is also multiplied.
More yearly vacation is given to employees that stay in the company for at least 6 months. Seven national holidays are gone. Minimum wage has been raised. There are many other details, but I will stop for now because I know you don’t care unless you work in HR at a Taiwanese corporation.
What this law means for companies:
The new Labor Standards Act is the lowest standard for companies to meet. This is not supposed to be the top bar, but unfortunately many Taiwanese companies see it as such. You might say it is unfair to set the same labor standard for every industry, as every industry is different. However, it would actually be more unfair to change this standard for every industry, as this is a pretty low standard as it is.
Companies should be setting a higher standard. Every industry is different, so they should figure out how to satisfy and attract employees themselves according to their own circumstances, and not rely on the government to set a standard and then give support when workers revolt. As one of the speakers put it (and I’m completely paraphrasing here):
Following this minimum standard is like driving 60km on the highway from Taipei to Kaohsiung; everyone is going to be honking at you and passing you. It’s not where companies are should be. Sadly, most companies in Taiwan only follow the lowest labor standards. Once, a CEO of a company with 2000 employees boasted (to one of the professors) at how he followed the Labor Standards exactly. Even so, he was still not better than any other owner of a street noodle stand that gives the same benefits.
Companies, especially large companies, need to be setting a higher bar, especially if they want to stop professionals from leaving Taiwan for better salaries and benefits overseas. As the newer generation demands more and more benefits (as seen from recent studies), companies that fall behind with basic benefits will have a hard time finding talent.
What this means for employees:
Let me preface by saying that Taiwan law hasn't changed its labor standards in over 30 years; these were way outdated and in desperate need of revision.
One of the best parts of this law is that it increases annual leave for everyone. One of the biggest changes in this area was the addition of three days for those that have worked in a company for over 6 months. This affects me directly, so I was pretty happy about it. More annual vacation is good, especially for new workers who are the most stressed and need it most. According to one of the speakers in the seminar I attended, workers that do not take vacation are ineffective (again paraphrasing from the Chinese):
Think back to when you went to school. We all looked up to those kids with good grades that still had time to go out and have fun. We looked up also to the kids that had fun but didn’t get good grades, and the kids that got good grades but didn’t have much fun. The group that no one envies is those that get poor grades and have no fun; this is exactly what people that never take vacation are.
Everyone will get tired throughout the year. We are not robots. Taking rest is not only good for employees; it is good for the companies. Taking a break makes employees happier, more motivated, and gives them more energy to complete their work. Therefore, taking breaks is profitable for the company. Under this logic annual leave is compensated according to Taiwanese law.
Another great thing about this amendment is that it gives employees more control over their annual leave. In the old system, employees had to come to an agreement with their employer before they could take annual leave, which prevented many people from using it up. However, now the decision of when to take yearly leave is given totally to the workers. Now, employees will have more flexibility for their vacation time and be able to receive adequate rest.
Something that might be bad for employees is that Taiwan basically gives them no power if there is a dispute with an employer. Worker’s unions can only be organized in companies that have over 30 employees. Many companies cut the number of employees for this reason. In fact, 97% of employees in Taiwan have no access to a worker’s union. Also, unlike other countries, Taiwan has never really gone through a worker’s revolution. Taiwanese corporations have pretty much always had power to push around employees and bend their will. Taiwanese people are usually too embarrassed to say no to overwork (this has a lot to do with Taiwanese culture). In fact, many Taiwanese companies give monetary reward for not taking any leave at all, which is unproductive for everyone. Also, many workers are afraid to leave the office if their boss has not left yet, which is ridiculous to me but it is part of their culture.
Alternatively, one might argue that this new Labor Standards Act might actually be harmful to worker’s unions, because if a company follows this basic standard, then Taiwanese companies will have very little leverage in improving the working environment.
What this means for foreign workers:
When I worked in a cram school, my boss broke every rule in the book. She payed under the table, worked me under the table, made everyone work overtime with no compensation at all, and didn’t give me health or labor insurance for my first 6 months. My fellow foreign coworker had been working in the same system for over 2 years. Although he complained that it was like hell for him, he didn’t care because he got his paycheck every month and at night he could go out to the clubs, get hammered, and play in his indie band on the side. To all of you foreigners working with the devil as your Taiwanese boss, stand up for yourselves!
As for me, I didn’t even know what the Taiwanese labor standards were at the time. For you, there is a clause called the whistleblower policy. This protects you against any retaliation that the boss might try on you if you turn them in. You are protected from them taking away your salary or punishing you in any way according to the law. If you or your coworkers are working overtime, make sure you are getting overtime pay. If the company is searched by the authorities and they do not give them your clock-in sheet, they will automatically be fined 90000.
My advice to foreigners: if you see any problems within your company, particularly if they are not following these standards, and your boss refuses to solve them, then call the labor office. Only through enforcement of this act can we improve the working lives of foreigners and Taiwanese alike.
P.S. If you have any questions about this, feel free to send us a message via Twitter.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling 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.