Record number of companies put employees on temporary leave

05/01/2020 05:56 PM
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CNA file photo for illustrative purposes only
CNA file photo for illustrative purposes only

Taipei, May 1 (CNA) A total of 922 companies across Taiwan had employees on furlough as of the end of April, an indication that the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak continues to hurt local businesses, especially smaller ones.

According to Ministry of Labor (MOL) statistics released Friday, 18,840 workers with 922 companies were on unpaid leave at the end of the month, up 575 workers and 118 companies from the previous week's figures.

The 922 companies were the most since statistics were first kept in January 2009. The previous record came in April 2009 during the global financial crisis when 903 companies said they were furloughing workers.

The number of workers on unpaid leave, however, remained well below the peak of 238,975 in February 2009, when big manufacturers were forced to idle their workforces.

Huang Wei-chen (黃維琛), deputy director of the MOL's Department of Labor Standards and Equal Employment, said the high number of companies resorting to furloughs reflected that many small businesses have had trouble keeping their workers busy during the slowdown caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Huang said larger companies have been less likely to put employees on temporary leave because of subsidies received from the government.

Under Taiwan's economic bailout program, businesses granted government subsidies are not allowed to lay off workers or cut their work hours.

By industry, the manufacturing sector had 6,501 workers on unpaid leave over the past week, the most of any sector, MOL figures showed.

The hospitality sector came second with 4,304 employees on temporary leave, followed by the retail/wholesale sector with 3,645 and the supportive services sector with 1,332.

Most of the companies using the unpaid leave system in Taiwan in recent months are entities with workforces of fewer than 50 people who have been required to take an extra day or two off per week because of the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the MOL said.

The figures only cover companies that have reached temporary leave agreements with employees and reported them to the MOL. They do not cover businesses that have forced workers to take time off without going through the MOL system.

(By Flor Wang and Wu Hsin-yun)

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