In response to public demand, the Council of Labor Affairs recently unveiled a plan to ease the restrictions on hiring foreign caregivers for senior citizens over the age of 80 who suffer a certain degree of disability. The change is expected to benefit 33,000 elderly people.
Also reacting to public appeals, the government had previously extended the maximum length of employment for foreign workers. These steps, however, cannot resolve the growing demand for long-term care services, although they may temporarily calm public complaints.
The fundamental problem facing Taiwan today is the lack of a complete and accessible care system, which is forcing people to look for affordable alternatives -- foreign labor.
While foreign labor has become a necessity under the present situation, our policy makers should stop considering foreign workers a stumbling block to the development of the domestic long-term care system.
The government should consider changing its policy of disqualifying families that hire foreign caregivers from receiving subsidies for home care services. Moreover, the long-term care services bill pending review in the Legislative Yuan should also take into consideration the role played by foreign caregivers in such services.
There is a need to provide equal working conditions, training and guidance to all long-term caregivers in Taiwan regardless of their nationality to ensure the quality of services provided.
Experts and civil groups have proposed allowing providers of home care services to employ foreign workers and assign them to families in need of the services. This can prevent the exploitation of workers and protect the quality of their services.
If President Ma Ying-jeou is to honor his campaign promise of launching a long-term care insurance in the country, this may be a feasible way toward the goal. (Editorial abstract -- April 27, 2012)
(By Y.F. Low)