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Migrant in-home caregivers appeal to be part of long-term care system

06/16/2024 08:33 PM
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CNA photo June 16, 2024
CNA photo June 16, 2024

Taipei, June 16 (CNA) Migrant in-home caregivers and members of a group advocating for them rallied outside the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) on International Domestic Workers' Day on Sunday to call for their incorporation into Taiwan's long-term care system.

The Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT), which consists of several caregiver unions and migrant worker service organizations, also urged that migrant in-home care workers be protected under labor laws and that the family-to-worker employment system be abolished.

MENT specialist Wang Li-ting (王俐婷) said Sunday that keeping migrant caregivers out of the long-term care system is both bad for those who depend on the system for care and for the workers themselves.

As of 2023, only 49,425 caregivers were registered as home service providers under Taiwan's long-term care system, she said, citing a Control Yuan report, making the 210,000 migrant caregivers in Taiwan who work outside the system the main providers of home care.

Yet, because these workers are excluded from public long-term care policies, the system fails to meet the demand for services, leading to the hiring and exploitation of migrant caregivers, Wang said.

In Taiwan, most overseas in-home caregivers are employed directly by families through manpower brokers and commonly live in the homes of the person they are taking care of, putting them on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The caregivers are not covered by Taiwan's Labor Standards Act, and are often at the mercy of their employers, who may have them do jobs unrelated to the one they were hired to do.

Wang described it as a "slave labor system," stemming in part from the fact that long-term care policies did not exist when overseas workers started coming to Taiwan in droves to work as caregivers.

Now that they are in place, however, migrant caregivers should be employed by government-approved long-term care institutions rather than by an individual family, which will better protect their rights and prevent exploitation, Wang said.

In a separate statement Sunday, the MENT called on the MOHW to observe the International Labor Organization's Convention on Domestic Workers as Taiwan moves closer to becoming a super-aged society -- defined as 20 percent of a population being 65 or over.

In response to the group's appeal, the government seemed reluctant to fold migrants into the long-term care system or expand their rights.

Wu Hsi-wen (吳希文), an official with the MOHW's Department of Long-Term Care, told reporters that the ministry has been planning to gradually allow mid-level skilled foreign care workers with certain language qualifications to be employed as nursing attendants by community or home care service institutions.

The Employment Service Act has also legalized institutions to apply for migrant care workers, but because in-home caregivers are employed by the individual family and live inside the home, the nature of their work and employment is different from that of a nursing attendant, Wu said.

The ministry will continue to gather opinions on the issue and evaluate adjustments as appropriate, Wu said.

As for the working conditions of migrant caregivers, the Labor Ministry has been reviewing existing laws to see if they comply with the Convention on Domestic Workers, Wu said.

(By Tseng Yi-ning and Wu Kuan-hsien)

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