The law provides standards for working conditions and health and safety precautions for an estimated 6.6 million of 8.4 million salaried workers. Those not covered include management employees, health-care workers, gardeners, bodyguards, teachers, doctors, lawyers, civil servants, local government contract workers, employees of farmers’ associations, and domestic workers.
A 5 percent increase in the minimum wage to NT$18,780 per month ($647), or NT$103 per hour ($3.55), took effect in January. There is no minimum wage for workers in categories not covered by the law.
The average manufacturing wage was more than double the legal minimum wage, and the average wage for service industry employees was even higher. The average monthly wage increased 2.7 percent to NT$45,642 ($1,572) in 2011. According to labor statistics, however, workers’ real wages were lower than they were 10 years ago. Authorities estimate the poverty income level to be 60 percent below the average disposable income of the median households in a designated area. By this definition the poverty income level was NT$14,794 ($509) per person in Taipei, NT$11,832 ($407) per person in New Taipei City, NT$10,244 ($353) per person in Taiwan Province, and NT$11,146 ($384) per person in Kaohsiung City.
Foreign household caregivers and domestic workers do not enjoy a minimum wage or overtime pay, limits on the workday or workweek, or minimum breaks or vacation time. As of the end of September, there were 200,882 foreign household caregivers and domestic workers registered under the Employment Services Act. NGOs and academics urged the CLA to provide basic labor protections such as minimum wage, overtime, and a mandatory day off for foreign household caregivers and domestic workers.
Legal working hours were 336 hours per eight-week period (an average of 42 hours per workweek). The law mandated a five-day workweek for the public sector, and, according to the CLA, more than half of private-sector enterprises also implemented a five-day workweek. According to local labor laws, only employees in “authorized special categories” approved by the CLA were exempt from the five-day workweek. These categories include flight attendants, insurance salespersons, real estate agents, nursery school teachers, ambulance drivers, and hospital workers. In practice, however, violations of the five-day workweek maximum were common. The law stipulates a fine for violating legal work maximums of NT$300,000 ($10,300) for violations and mandates that the names of the offending companies be broadcast to the public. In response to public pressure, the CLA conducted a review of the authorized special categories in an effort to reduce their scope. In March it extended protection to most medical personnel, although not including medical staff working in emergency rooms, delivery rooms, operating rooms, or recovery rooms. The Taiwan Confederation of Trade Union and other labor groups asked the authorities to end the “authorized special category” system.
The law provides standards for health and safety. Labor federations and NGOs alleged, however, that the CLA did not effectively enforce workplace health and safety laws and regulations. In the first half of the year, the CLA’s 292 inspectors conducted 45,079 inspections, an increase of 7.6 percent from the same period of 2011. The law covered approximately 310,000 enterprises. Labor NGOs and academics argued that the labor inspection rate was far too low to serve as an effective deterrent against labor violations and unsafe working conditions, especially for labor in small and medium factories. Labor groups repeatedly urged the CLA to strengthen its inspection regime.
Regulations require intensified inspection and oversight of foreign labor brokerage companies. NGOs reported that some labor brokers and employers regularly collected high fees or loan payments from foreign workers, using debts incurred in the source country as a tool for involuntary servitude. At the end of July, 441,507 documented migrants worked in Taiwan; of these, 186,458 were from Indonesia, 85,466 from the Philippines, 71,434 from Thailand, and 98,145 from Vietnam. A total of 37,469 undocumented foreigners worked in Taiwan. NGOs asserted that foreign workers were often unwilling to report employer abuses for fear the employer would terminate the contract and deport them, leaving them unable to pay back debt accrued to brokers or others.
A 2012 NGO report documented abusive conditions for migrant workers on Taiwan flagged fishing vessels operating out of Singapore. The report claimed that employers provided the migrant workers, mostly Filipino, substandard food and little medical care, forced workers to work 18-20 hours a day, and did not allow them to break their contracts without hefty penalties. In addition, the workers were not able to leave their posts because the ships stayed at sea for months at a time.
An employer may deduct only labor insurance fees, health insurance premiums, income taxes, and meal and lodging fees from the wages of a foreign worker. Violators face fines of NT$60,000 to NT$300,000 ($2,070 to $10,300) and loss of hiring privileges. Critics, however, complained that violations continued and that the CLA did not effectively enforce statutes and regulations intended to protect foreign laborers from unscrupulous brokers and employers.
In addition to a CLA-operated Foreign Worker Direct-Hire Service Center that allows local employers to rehire their foreign employees, the CLA opened a direct-hire web platform to allow local employers to hire foreign workers online without having to go through a broker. NGOs, however, argued that complicated procedures and restrictions on use of both the Service Center and the online service prevented widespread implementation, and they advocated lifting restrictions on transfers between employers. In a move praised by both local employers and foreign workers, in January the Legislative Yuan passed a bill to prolong the time limit in which foreign workers could stay in Taiwan from nine years to 12 years.
The service center also permitted the direct rehiring of foreign workers engaged in manufacturing, fisheries, construction, and other industries.
The National Immigration Agency is responsible for all immigration-related policies and procedures for foreign workers, foreign spouses, immigrant services, and repatriation of undocumented immigrants. The CLA is responsible for work permits and services related to occupation. The CLA also provides mediation services and may permit the transfer of employees in situations where the employee has suffered exploitation or abuse.
Except for victims of trafficking in persons or employer abuse, foreign workers deemed to have worked illegally faced heavy fines, mandatory repatriation, and a permanent ban on reentering Taiwan.
According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Insurance, there were 26,703 cases of occupational injury or sickness during the first nine months of 2012, down from 26,760 cases during the same period in 2011. There were 233 occupational deaths during this period, down from the 243 cases reported during the same period in 2011.