By Gregory K. Taylor
One of the ways to judge the wealth of a nation is by the number of foreigners recruited to enter that country to work. Domestic importation of workers, usually from poorer countries, is often done through recruitment agencies and brokers. The number of domestic workers can, and often does, run into the hundreds of thousands for any given country. As household income rises the housework responsibilities that used to fall on the shoulders of the housewife is now relegated to the live-in domestic. This new unskilled labor force, particularly the females, are consigned to a variety of household duties, such as, cooking, laundry, ironing, shopping, and caring for the children and elderly parents. In Taiwan, most domestics are “live-in” with room and board calculated as part of their salary.
The potential for abuse is high when the employee's work visa is strictly dependent on the largess, goodwill, and sometimes whim of the employer as it is in Taiwan. Working hours and days off, if at all, can be ad hoc and arbitrary at best without the benefit of overtime compensation while a less than hospitable environment can be par for the course. The laments of some Taiwanese, particularly the younger generation, regarding this unfavorable work environment only confirms the ill-treatment meted out by some employers. How effectual the government is in regulating such abuses is unknown, but the fact that these abusive practices exist belies the regulatory statutes on the books.
|Protesting Filipinos for a minimum wage in Taiwan|
Attempts to interview a cross-section of imported domestic workers both Filipina and Indonesian were met with a palpable concern, if not, fear of speaking with a foreigner about their working conditions. The following response was copied and pasted verbatim from an email sent to me in response to an interview request, “sorry Mr Greg everyday I'm very busy, must takecare grandfather&grandmother so I'm really no time to go outside meet you I'm so sorry”
|Indonesians near the MRT station Taipei, Taiwan|
This individual indicated that she gets no days off and is always at the beck and call of her live-in employer. If this is true this surely is an abusive employer/employee relationship by most standards in the developed world. This isn't to indict all domestic employers in Taiwan because many employees, if not most, get days off. Sunday mass at St. Christopher's Catholic Church in “Little Manila” and the countless Indonesians that congregate near the main MRT train station on any given Sunday bears witness to that fact.
Many employers have fair and friendly relationships with their domestic helpers, but as usual it only takes a few to taint the entire group. Below is a statistic regarding the immigrant work force in Taiwan.
Gregory Taylor is currently in Taiwan