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Migrant Worker’s Rights, Law Consultation and Trans-local Connection

Migrant Worker’s Rights, Law Consultation and Trans-local Connection
— Chiung-Chih Chen, Institute of Social Research and Cultural Studies, National Chiao Tung University


Building on the previous issue, this issue opens up the conversation with the Taiwanese society through articulating in diverse ways and integrating all the opinions into the white paper. The core issues include: first, the children of migrant workers: The current difficulty lies in the fact that, due to human rights concerns, the government called off the regulation that repatriates pregnant migrant laborers and cancelled the obligatory pregnancy test. However, it is followed by the lack of supporting measure to help the pregnant migrant laborers on duty nor assistance with the newborn children, except for a few civil organizations that assume the responsibility of aids and caregiving. Can migrant workers pregnant in Taiwan have any alternative if the government intends to carry on the goodwill of the initial measures? For example, could there be a more affordable nursery system co-paid by the Taiwanese government, foreign governments, and the migrant laborers themselves that allows the workers to continue their works in Taiwan while being in proximity to take constant care of their children. As for the pricing, it could refer to various different aspects, including the current nursery cost in Taiwan and the possible subsidy from foreign governments as well as the cost affordable for the migrant workers. For both the host countries and the countries of origin, through taking the humanity into account, this could be a possible measure in response to the currently inexorable mobilization of transnational labor and reduce future social cost. Second, deficiency of agricultural labor and missing migrant laborers: In response to the deficiency of agricultural labor in Taiwan, Council of Agriculture conceived various different proposals including encouraging university graduates to return to their hometown, trying to open up and recruit agricultural foreign laborers, as well as two other propositions: to allow migrant workers currently based in Taiwan to work on agricultural farms during their days off, and to open up short-term agricultural working opportunities for Southeast Asian youth. These discussions are developing in parallel with another [real-life] issue. Currently, there are over 50,000 missing migrant workers. According to non-systematic research, most missing migrant laborers turned to farm work in countryside or mountainous areas in central and southern Taiwan. The problem with agricultural labor shortage converges with the missing migrant workers’ turn to agriculture. Do the Taiwanese society, including the academia and the civil organizations, have enough momentum to discuss both issues and formulate reasonable policy to solve the problems? Drastic changes in the policy concerning the transnational laborers always takes time and mechanism to buffer. Take Saudi Arabia as an example, the prevalence of transaction of illegal working visa generates problems ranging from the rise of expenses of visa transaction to fake visas. To solve the problem, the Saudi Arabian government carries out the Crack Down policy which increases the penalty of visa fraud, yet a grace period also exempts the holders of fake visas from penalty should they confess and agree to be repatriated. The problems with migration of transnational labor, now deeply rooted in the exporting and importing countries can by no means be resolved by a single policy once and for all. However, through repeated revision and endeavor, we hope to realize the ideal of the relatively possible co-existence of different communities. Third, domestic migrant workers: Domestic migrant workers have always been the most vulnerable, though opposite cases also exist. The rights of domestic workers are not legally protected by the Labor Standard Act. One day off per week, guaranteed by the Act, is in practice constantly replaced by an overtime pay of a few hundred NT dollars. Additionally, the different needs of the employers result in the large discrepancy of workload and the demanded working hours. Since the work takes place in the employer’s private space, the laborers are also inflicted with high exposure to possible physical violence and sexual harassment or even assault. The TIWA (Taiwan International Workers’ Association) used to propound the Domestic Service Act with the hope for guaranteed time off for domestic workers. However, the social atmosphere at the time did not allow sufficient discussion on these issues. Nowadays, the general atmosphere in Taiwan and the world enables the re-examination of their working condition and the implementation of the policy step by step. This project will combine the in-depth grasp of the issues within the academia (in the fields of legal studies, political philosophy, or comparative studies in reference to the systems of other countries) with the civil organizations’experience in extensive network and solving problems as a result of their long-term inquiry into migrant worker issues.