Taipei, May 3 (CNA) Lawmakers and rights groups on Thursday urged the government to relax regulations governing the hiring of foreign caregivers so that more disabled people can apply for their services.
The lawmakers, dozens of disabled people, and representatives of around 10 groups demanded an easing of rules to allow all severely disabled people and families with two moderately disabled people the right to apply for foreign caregivers.
The request was made at a legislative hearing held by ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Yang Yu-hsin to call attention to disability issues. Yang suffers from a rare genetic disorder and is confined to a wheelchair.
Under current regulations, only people with certain types of severe disability or those defined by health institutes as requiring 24 hours of care are able to apply for caregivers from abroad.
"Visually impaired people are excluded from applying for foreign caregivers, even if we suffer from severe vision impairment,"said Kuo Shu-chi, secretary-general of a local family care association for the disabled and a victim of vision impairment.
Lawmakers and the groups said wages for Taiwanese caregivers are higher than those for foreign caregivers and that becomes a burden for disabled people who are already plagued by financial difficulties.
"Many disabled people cannot afford to hire Taiwanese caregivers," KMT Legislator Lo Shu-lei said, demanding that the government ease regulations that she called "unreasonable and removed from reality."
Moreover, Sung Li-jung, a mother and disabled person, said two moderately handicapped people "need as much care" as one severely handicapped person.
"Many disabled people marry each other and find that they are unable to take care of each other as they age," Sung said, mentioning herself as an example.
In response to the requests from the groups, Shiue Jain-jong, a Foreign Workers Administration official from the Council of Labor Affairs, said the employment of foreign caregivers does not solve all problems and that the establishment of a long-term care service system is the direction toward which Taiwan should be heading.
"Japan and South Korea do not import foreign caregivers, which is why their care industry is able to flourish," he said, adding that his council aims to set up a system that guarantees a more long-term solution. However, he also said his council will continue to review its policies and listen to opinions from all sides.
Latest government statistics show that there are around 200,000 foreign caregivers in Taiwan.
(By Christie Chen)