The question of domestic workers’ rights in Taiwan is embedded in the wider policies on foreign workers’ recruitment for temporary work in factories and construction, rst introduced in the national economy in the late 1980s. The hiring of domestic workers from abroad became possible in 1992. By 2017, the total number of foreign nursing workers and domestic workers reached more than 240.000. These workers are not protected by Labor Standards Law.

Resembling in this respect our three European countries rather than our two other Asian cases, Taiwan has a strong need of migrant workers in this sector due to the lack of national workforce of elderly caregivers, and a fast-increasing elderly population. The main solution so far has been the temporary recruitment of foreign workers organized via employment agencies and a system of semi-legal brokers, with branches in the countries of departure, such as Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. However, the system is highly criticized for failing to provide good quality care and, at the same, for failing to prevent violation of fundamental rights and mistreatment of the workers. Cases of abuse often result in the so called ‘running away’ of workers who leave their employers’ household, look for irregular work, and become at risk of being repatriated. Such difficult situation has been denounced in several occasions by local media and human rights organizations, international NGOs, religious organizations (Catholic and Buddhist), as well as organizations of care-receivers and grassroot groups for migrants and women’s rights (e.g. Taiwan International Workers’ Association-TIWA, Awakening Foundation, Universal Care Policy Alliance).

At the political level, the country is currently undergoing a period of advancements in the field of human and civil rights. Even though Taiwan is not part of United Nations, it has adopted relevant international norms such as the ICCPR, ICESCR, and CEDAW. Welfare policies have also been reformed with new measures addressing the issue of Long-Term Care (LTC). However, no action has been taken until now to improve the conditions of the migrant workers working in this sector and the proposal of a Household Service Act, produced by civil society organisations, has not been taken up by the government until now.

Country-expert: Pei Chieh Hsu

Local workshop:  6 January 2017