Draft bill to help older workers find jobs faces multiple challenges

07/28/2019 09:47 PM
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Taipei, July 28 (CNA) Although the Cabinet approved a draft act last week to boost the participation of older workers in the workforce, Taiwan will have to overcome numerous challenges to reverse the low labor participation rate of middle-aged and elderly people, experts said.

The draft bill, which allows employers to offer new contracts to workers aged 65 and older, increases the flexibility of existing regulations that set the mandatory retirement age at 65, represents a legal breakthrough and should promote reemployment and improve the labor force participation rate, said Hsin Ping-lung (辛炳隆), an associate professor at National Taiwan University's Graduate Institute of National Development.

However, under the Labor Standards Act, only certain types of jobs are allowed to sign fixed-term contracts and the relaxation of age restrictions could also lead to employers hiring elderly employees to replace young workers as a way of cutting labor costs, Hsin noted.

Meanwhile, Yang Tsung-bin (楊宗斌), a spokesman for online job bank yes123, suggested the government needs to create a friendlier environment for the employment of middle-aged and elderly people by revising existing regulations or adopting measures to encourage employers to do so, such as the provision of subsidies.

Yang also said that more clear-cut regulations governing new contracts granted to elder workers need to be formulated, such as contract terms that are at least one year in duration, to ensure their experience is passed on to younger employees.

In response to the relatively low labor force participation rate of those aged 55 and over in Taiwan amid a rapidly aging population, the Cabinet last Thursday approved a draft act that allows employers to hire people aged at least 65 on fixed-term contracts and ensures elderly workers will enjoy fair employment opportunities.

The draft bill stipulates employers cannot subject anyone to unfair treatment because of their age. Discrimination refers to disadvantageous actions taken against job applicants or employees related to their recruitment, job allocation, performance evaluation, promotion, training, wages and benefits, retirement or redundancy payments.

Those caught violating the age discrimination rules of the employment act could face fines ranging from NT$300,000-NT$1.5 million (US$9,657-US$48,286), according to the draft bill.

Under the bill, middle-aged workers are defined as those aged 45-65, while elderly workers are those over 65.

In 2018, about 4.6 million middle-aged and elderly workers in Taiwan were working in the private sector, an increase of about 1.01 million from 10 years ago, and about 280,000 people of those are aged 65 or older, according to data compiled by the Ministry of Labor.

Yu Ai-chun (余璦君), director of the ministry's Senior Workforce Development Service Center in Yonghe District, New Taipei, said that since the center was established five years ago, it has helped 7,000 middle-aged and elderly workers return to the workplace and successfully matched 4,000 of them with employers.

Taiwan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and its society is rapidly aging. The Ministry of the Interior announced in 2018 that Taiwan has officially become an "aged society," with those aged 65 or over accounting for 14.05% of the total population.

The National Development Council expects Taiwan to become a super-aged society -- defined as 20 percent of the population being 65 or older -- by 2026.

(By Wu Po-wei and Evelyn Kao)


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