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Migrant workers welcome proposed amendment to extend their stay

Focus Taiwan - 25 April 2015 - Migrant workers are backing a proposal by lawmakers to increase the total number of years foreign nationals can work in Taiwan, saying it would benefit those who wish to worker longer in the country to support their families back home.

Taipei, April 25 (CNA) Migrant workers are backing a proposal by lawmakers to increase the total number of years foreign nationals can work in Taiwan, saying it would benefit those who wish to worker longer in the country to support their families back home.

"This is good for us. Many Indonesian workers do not want to go back yet because they have to support their families and earn their children's college tuition," Nanik Riyati, an Indonesia caregiver who has worked in Taiwan for seven years, told CNA Friday.

Nineteen lawmakers, led by Kuomintang Legislator Chiang Huei-chen (江惠貞), proposed an amendment to the Employment Service Act at the Legislature on Wednesday that would allow foreign workers to work a total of 15 years in Taiwan, compared with the maximum 12 at present.

Some of her friends have reluctantly left for Hong Kong after approaching the 12-year limit, Nanik said. Places such as Hong Kong and South Korea do not set a ceiling on the aggregate number of years foreign nationals can work in their territories.

Cathy from the Philippines, who wished only to be identified by her first name, said she would benefit greatly if the proposed amendment passes.

"Salary in the Philippines is not the same as it is here. It is not enough," said the 39 year-old, who has worked as a caregiver in Taiwan for six years.

A mother of four, with her eldest in college, Cathy said she would like to stay in Taiwan "as long as possible" because she has four kids to support and because "when I get older I can't work."

"A lot of Filipinos, they want to stay in Taiwan, but if they cannot come back, they will apply (to work in) Canada," Cathy said Saturday.

Mary, a 39-year-old Filipino who works at an electronics factory, said that with three children to support, she was also hoping to work longer in Taiwan, where she can earn much more than in her home country.

Mary, who also wished to only be identified by her first name, said she earned around 12,000 Philippine pesos (US$271) when she worked at a garment factory in the Philippines prior to coming to Taiwan. She now earns double that amount.

In addition to proposing to allow foreign nationals to work for up to 15 years in Taiwan, lawmakers also proposed to scrap a regulation requiring migrant workers to leave the country for at least one day every three years when their work permit expires.

"The three-year restriction is a lot of trouble for us, and very expensive too," Nanik said.

Round-trip plane tickets and visa fees can easily exceed NT$25,000 (US$813), and Nanik, who is from Central Java, has to travel 12 hours by bus to Jakarta to get her visa renewed each time.

Cathy, meanwhile, said she has to pay between 80,000 pesos and 95,000 pesos to Filipino brokers every time she returns to Taiwan to work, an amount that equals around four months of her salary.

"We have no choice because we want to go to Taiwan to work," Mary said.

Ministry of Labor statistics show that as of Feb. 28, there were 513,570 legally employed foreign workers in Taiwan and 44,204 foreign workers whose whereabouts were unknown. The largest contingent of foreign workers in Taiwan comes from Indonesia, with 230,000 people working in the country, according to the figures.

While migrant workers see the amendment as a form of progress, Chen Hsiu-lien (陳秀蓮), a policy researcher at the Taiwan International Workers' Association, said there should be no cap on the number of years foreign workers can work in Taiwan in the first place.

Taiwan's immigration laws have already ruled out the possibility of migrant workers obtaining a Taiwan ID card based on the number of years they stay in the country, so there is no point to a cap, Chen argued.

While many may benefit from the proposed amendment, for Nanik, nine years away from home is already too long.

When she finishes her ninth year, she will be ready to go home to Indonesia, said the mother of a seven-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter.

"They have grown up. They need me besides them. It has been too long," she said.

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Source: http://focustaiwan.tw/news/asoc/201504250023.aspx

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