A new minimum wage of NT$21,009 ($690) per month, or NT$133 ($4.36) per hour, will take effect in January 2018. There is no minimum wage for workers in categories not covered by the law, such as management employees, medical doctors, healthcare workers, gardeners, bodyguards, self-employed lawyers, civil servants, contractors for local authorities, and domestic workers.
Authorities defined the poverty level as 60 percent below the average monthly disposable income of the median household in a designated area. By this definition, the poverty level was a disposable monthly income of NT$15,544 ($509) per person in Taipei, NT$13,700 ($449) per person in New Taipei City, NT$12,941 ($424) per person in Kaohsiung, and NT$11,448 ($375) per person in all other areas.
As of January 2016, an amendment to the law stipulated new legal working hours of eight hours per day and 40 hours per week, a reduction from the previous limit of eight hours per day and 84 hours biweekly. Employees in “authorized special categories” approved by the ministry are exempt from regular working hours stipulated in the law. These categories include security guards, flight attendants, insurance salespersons, real estate agents, nursery school teachers, ambulance drivers, and hospital workers.
The law for health and safety standards was amended in 2013 to expand coverage from workers in 15 categories to employees in all industries, better protect female workers and those younger than age 18, prevent overworking, impose higher safety standards on the petroleum and chemical industries, and impose higher fines for violations.
Authorities did not always effectively enforce the wage law. Violations of legal working hours were common in all sectors. In response authorities increased the number of inspections in 2016. The labor ministry’s 2016 labor inspection report found that 18.8 percent of inspected firms violated the law.
The Ministry of Labor increased the number of labor inspectors and also subsidized local authorities’ hiring of contract inspectors. NGOs and academics stated that the number of inspectors and labor inspection rate was still too low to serve as an effective deterrent against labor violations and unsafe working conditions, although the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions said the situation had somewhat improved. Authorities can fine employers and withdraw their hiring privileges for violations of the law, and the law mandates announcing the names of offending companies to the public. Critics complained that violations continued and that the labor ministry did not effectively enforce statutes and regulations intended to protect foreign laborers from unscrupulous brokers and employers.
As of November 2016 the law eliminates the requirement that foreign workers leave Taiwan every three years between re-employment contracts. Advocates for this amendment said it would help alleviate the burden of brokerage and other fees foreign workers have to pay.
Household caregivers and domestic workers are not protected under the law and are not covered by a mandated minimum wage, overtime pay, limits on the workday or workweek, minimum breaks, or vacation regulations. Brokerage agencies often require workers to take out loans for “training” and other fees at local branches of Taiwan banks in their home countries at high interest rates, leaving them vulnerable to debt bondage. NGOs reported that the monthly take home pay of some domestic workers was as low as 6.7 percent of the official poverty level.
Religious leaders continued to raise concerns that the law did not guarantee a day off for domestic workers and caregivers, which limited their ability to attend religious services. This problem was particularly salient among the island’s 231,000 foreign caregivers and household workers, predominantly from Indonesia and the Philippines, who include a number of Muslims and Catholics who want to or believe they must attend religious services on a certain day of the week.
The approximately 600,000 foreign workers, primarily from Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand, were vulnerable to exploitation. Locally operated service centers to brief foreign workers on arrival, maintained a hotline for complaints and assistance, and funded and operated shelters to protect abused workers. Regulations require inspection and oversight of foreign labor brokerage companies. The Ministry of Labor may also permit foreign workers’ transfer to new employers in cases of exploitation or abuse. NGOs asserted, however, that foreign workers often were unwilling to report employer abuses for fear the employer would terminate the contract and deport them, leaving them unable to reimburse debt accrued during the recruitment process.
The Ministry of Labor operated a Foreign Worker Direct Hire Service Center (DHSC) and an online platform to allow employers to hire foreign workers without using a broker. Employers could also renew foreign workers’ employment contracts at the DHSC. NGOs said that complicated hiring procedures and the online service’s incompatibilities with certain recruitment systems in workers’ countries of origin prevented widespread implementation, and they advocated lifting restrictions on foreign workers voluntarily transferring their contracts to different employers. The Taiwan International Workers’ Association complained that after 10 years of DHSC operation, the government was still unable to complete the direct recruitment objective for foreign workers. Red tape in the system continued to enable brokers to exploit profits from foreign workers.
There were numerous reports of exploitation and poor working conditions of foreign fishing crews on Taiwan-flagged long-haul vessels. The Taiwan International Workers’ Association and other civil groups urged authorities and ship owners to better protect foreign fishermen.