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Are brokerage fees for migrant workers in Taiwan too high?

2015/03/22 18:09:26

Migrant health caregivers (3)

By Bear Lee CNA staff writer

The Indonesian authorities recently accused Taiwanese brokers of charging exorbitant fees for its migrant workers and threatened to stop sending Indonesians workers after 2017.

However, Tsai Yueh-yin, a manager at the South East Asia Group, said her brokerage firm charges migrant workers NT$60,000 (about US$1,930) and employers NT$6,000 in brokerage fees and other after-brokerage services.

The services, required by the government, include mediating disputes between employers and their workers, interviewing migrant workers every two months to understand their working conditions and help resolve problems and the provision of a 24-hour telephone translation service for newcomers.

"Brokerage firms in other countries provide a one-off brokerage service, whereas we are required to provide many more extras, so we would be fine with cutting fees for migrant workers if after-brokerage services are also eliminated," Tsai said.

According to surveys by the Malaysian National Association of Employment Agency (PIKAP), brokers in Taiwan and Hong Kong charge each migrant domestic helper brokerage fees of 6,500-7,000 ringgit (NT$58,5000-NT$63,000), higher than the 4,800 ringgit charged in Malaysia and lower than the 6,000-8,000 ringgit in Middle Eastern countries.

However, the NT$60,000 brokerage fees are not the only cost Indonesian migrant workers have to pay to work in Taiwan and other countries.

Retno Dewi, chairman of the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers, said that they also have to pay Indonesian migrant workers' training centers US$2,000 in brokerage fees and training cost and for other services.

As a matter of fact, Indionesian migrant workers usually have to borrow money from local banks to pay all the fees first before they can go abroad to work, according to several Indonesian organiations for the protection of workers' rights.

"In another word, they are exploited twice for going to work abroad," Dewi added.

The situation appears to be getting worse for many Indonesian migrant workers, who can earn about 2 million rupiah (NT$5,520) monthly in rural areas of their home country, and spend much of the money they make abroad repaying loans from local banks.

The interest rate is 19 percent and, if other charges, like bank account management fees, are taken into account, it can reach as high as 30 percent. Little wonder then that Srilestari, who worked in Taiwan as a health caregiver for three years, said that everything she earned during her first year in Taiwan was used to repay her debt to the banks.


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Taiwan seeking to diversify supply of migrant workers
Workers' group urges protection of migrant workers in Taiwan