Furloughed workers up as COVID-19 continues to hit travel agencies
Taipei, Oct. 1 (CNA) The number of workers on formal furlough programs in Taiwan as of the end of September rose from a week earlier as COVID-19 concerns continued to hit the support service sector, especially travel agencies, the Ministry of Labor (MOL) said Friday.
The number of employers which implemented unpaid leave programs also moved higher during the week amid COVID-19 worries, the MOL added.
Data compiled by the MOL showed the number of workers who agreed to take unpaid leave rose by 636 from the last report released on Sept. 24 to 38,555 as of Sept. 30.
The number of companies with furlough programs in place also rose by 121 from a week earlier to 3,759, the data indicated.
Huang Wei-chen (黃維琛), director of the MOL's Department of Labor Standards and Equal Employment, told reporters that since the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide early last year and the imposition of restrictive border controls by countries, the travel agency industry has been heavily affected, and there have been no signs of improvement this year.
The travel agency industry contributed about 400 to the latest weekly increase of 636 workers on furlough programs, Huang said.
Bucking the downturn, the exports-oriented manufacturing sector reported a slight decline in furloughed workers in the week as global demand remained solid, the MOL's data showed.
As of Sept. 30, the number of workers placed on furloughed programs in the sector stood at 1,846, down from 1,869 a week earlier, but the number of manufacturers which carried out unpaid leave programs rose slightly to 169 from 166, according to the MOL.
Huang said that as the government will start to issue NT$5,000 (US$179) in spending vouchers from Oct. 8 to eligible residents in a bid to boost domestic consumption, the service sector could see the impact from COVID-19 easing to some extent.
Many lodging and food and beverage firms have stopped their furlough programs on expectations that the spending vouchers will prompt consumers to spend, adding that furlough data could improve later, said Huang.
During the week, the lodging and food and beverage industry reported the largest number of furloughed workers with 14,409, ahead of the support service industry with 9,617, and the retail and wholesale industry's 4,677.
Meanwhile, a total of 1,267 firms in the support service industry reported unpaid leave programs, the most among all industries, followed by 730 in the retail and wholesale industry, and 712 in the lodging and food/beverage industry.
The ministry updates its furloughed worker data on the 1st, 8th, 16th, and 24th of every month. However, the numbers only cover unpaid leave plans put in place by companies that are reported to the ministry.
Most of the enterprises implementing furlough programs are small firms employing fewer than 50 people.
These unpaid leave programs typically last for fewer than three months and involve employees taking five to eight days of unpaid leave per month, according to the MOL.
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