Taiwan turns to Myanmar to fill labour shortage

As Indonesia has decided to gradually stop sending domestic workers overseas, Taiwan is looking to Myanmar to fill the gap.

TAIPEI: Taiwan may soon face a labour shortage, after Indonesia decided to gradually stop sending domestic workers overseas. The city is now looking to Myanmar to fill the gap.

Most of the migrant workers are hired at the assembly lines or by the sickbed of the island’s growing elderly population. Official data show at least 40 per cent are Indonesian – which is a problem, given Jakarta wants to stop sending workers to Taiwan by 2017.

“Indonesia is the only market Taiwan relies on to source domestic caretakers,” said Chen Meih-sin, general manager of Southeast Asia Manpower Consultant Co. “We hire 180,000 domestic caretakers from Indonesia. If, in two years, Taiwan hasn’t located other countries to import domestic help, who is going to take care of our elderly people? This will be a serious problem.”

To solve the shortage, Taiwan is now looking to tap Myanmar workers. Officials from the Ministry of Labour said they have entered talks with their counterparts in Myanmar to fill the expected gap.

Manpower agents welcomed the government’s move, saying English-speaking Myanmar workers can easily thrive in the manufacturing sector.

But labour rights groups said Taiwan should first look at improving working conditions for migrant workers – and not look to other Southeast Asian countries for a quick fix.

“That’s really shameful for the Taiwan government to just say no and try to search for some other sources of slave labour instead,” said Wu Jing-ru, researcher at Taiwan International Workers’ Association. “Taiwan government should grab the chance to make systemic changes.”

These changes include housing workers in clean, functional dormitories, and regulating working hours.
Unlike factory workers, domestic workers are not protected by the Labour Standards Act, which caps labour at 84 hours every two weeks.

Many domestic helpers have also long complained of subpar wages – usually at around US$500 a month, when the minimum is set at around US$612.

But even with a looming shortage of migrant workers, experts said it is not likely Taipei will agree to raise wages, as it has become a political flashpoint at home, and given uncertainty in the global economy.

Source: Channel News Asia

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