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U.S. rights reports raise concerns about Taiwan's migrant workers

2018/04/21 12:28:33

Washington, April 20 (CNA) Human rights reports issued by the U.S. State Department on Friday raised concerns about the working conditions of migrant workers in Taiwan, saying they have been vulnerable to exploitation or abuse.

In the 2017 Human Rights Reports, the U.S. State Department said Taiwan has about 600,000 migrant workers who largely come from Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand.

The reports said exploitation suffered by migrant workers remained, even though some regulations to protect them have been put in place. It referred to the existing laws such as those that require inspection and oversight of foreign labor brokerage companies, and rules which permit foreign workers' transfer to new employers in cases of exploitation or abuse.

However, non-governmental organizations have asserted that "foreign workers often were unwilling to report employer abuses for fear the employer would terminate the contract and deport them, leaving them unable to reimburse debt accrued during the recruitment process," the reports said.

According to the reports, religious leaders have kept raising concerns that the existing regulations failed to guarantee a day off for domestic workers and caregivers, a practice which has undermined their rights to attend religious services.

"This problem was particularly salient among the island's 231,000 foreign caregivers and household workers, predominantly from Indonesia and the Philippines, who include a number of Muslims and Catholics who want to or believe they must attend religious services on a certain day of the week," the reports said.

In addition to the concerns about migrant workers' interests, the reports also pointed out that while the law in Taiwan has prohibited discrimination against workers as a whole, human rights activists said many employees who feared retaliation from their employers tended not to report their mistreatment to authorities.

In particular, "persons with disabilities and HIV-positive persons sometimes remained vulnerable to discrimination in employment and occupation," the reports said.

Meanwhile, they praised Taiwan as a democracy governed by a president and a parliament elected in multiple votes, adding that Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was elected as the first female president of Taiwan in 2016 and the current legislature has a record of 38 percent of lawmakers who are women, which represents an improvement in female representation in the local political circles.

However, female workers' mobility and compensation in the job market was still lower than that of their male counterparts, the reports said.

"Women were promoted less frequently, occupied fewer management positions, and worked for lower pay than men, earning on average 83 percent of their male counterparts' income in 2015, although the law prohibits differential treatment of employees based on sex and mandates equal pay for equal work of equal efficiency," the reports added.

At the same time, the reports said Taiwan respects freedom of speech and as a result, the country has a vibrant media industry which is full of a wide range of opinions.

But the reports said Taiwan's media has remained haunted by the concentration of ownership, in particular among companies with investments from China.

Under such circumstances, local academics and media activists have criticized some media for practicing self-censorship in favor of China, due to political considerations as well as the influence of local businesses with close ties to the mainland, the reports said.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh and Frances Huang)
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