News / Economy

Southeast Asian Migrants Revitalizing Taiwan Economy

An investor monitors the stock market at a securities brokerage in Taipei, April 16, 2013.
An investor monitors the stock market at a securities brokerage in Taipei, April 16, 2013.
Ralph Jennings
Decades ago Taiwan was one of the four fastest-growing economies in Asia. But factories have moved away since then, making China the region’s growth leader.  That dynamic has forced Taiwan to look increasingly to its Southeast Asian migrant workers to get the country's economy back on track. 

Taiwan’s annual economic growth of less than four percent has left it lagging behind the rest of industrialized Asia.  Before 2000, Taiwan was growing quickly, reaching a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $467 billion as contracts for high-tech manufacturing put its economy on a level with Singapore and South Korea.

That was before China became the region’s low-cost manufacturing hotspot, luring capital away from Taiwan and avoiding free trade deals with the island’s Beijing-hostile government. Taiwan’s birth rate was also falling and at one child per woman it ranks now as one of the world’s lowest, a threat to productivity.
 
But a growing population of migrant workers is reheating Taiwan’s economy.

Peter O’Neill, a Catholic Church priest, who counsels migrants, says Southeast Asians do valuable work for up to 18 hours per day and get paid less than the Taiwanese.
 
“Those industries are where the working conditions are very dangerous, very hot, very uncomfortable, because Taiwanese people no longer want to work in the manufacturing sector,” O'Neill stated.
 
Nearly 450,000 Southeast Asian workers live in Taiwan today, up from 270,000 just 15 years ago. More than half come from Indonesia and the rest are mainly Thai, Filipino or Vietnamese. Migrants reach Taiwan on short-term labor contracts and are paid minimum wage, earning enough on average by their third year to send money to relatively poor families back home.
 
Taiwan’s government relaxed migrant labor laws last year to let in more workers. The move was part of a bigger directive to bring Taiwanese factories home from China, where they have operated in some cases for nearly three decades.
 
There is no official estimate on migrant labor’s contribution to Taiwan’s economy,  but Liu Shao-yin, supervisor with the Catholic Migrant Centers, a nongovernmental migrant workers service group, said foreign labor now keeps locally owned factories at home.
 
She said the problem Taiwan would face is factory owners moving out of Taiwan. They would relocate plants to mainland China or Southeast Asia because of lower labor costs in those regions, she said, leaving relatively few in Taiwan.
 
Taiwan’s increasing reliance on migrant workers puts it in a league with Hong Kong, Singapore and other countries that look to their poorer neighbors for labor.

Migrants in Taiwan fill a range of jobs. Filipinos may work as engineers for Taiwanese information technology firms. Thai workers can be found doing tough factory work and other Southeast Asians help on fishing boats, a job that many Taiwanese consider dangerous.
 
Many of the 100,000 Vietnamese migrants care for Taiwan’s elderly, freeing up younger Taiwanese who would normally look after their parents to work.
 
Homecare workers earn the equivalent of $530 per month, and factory labor pays a monthly $638, both below average wages for Taiwan.

Filipino national Emmanuel Nanocatcat came a year ago to earn minimum wage plus overtime pay at a family-owned factory in Taipei. “For now, the economy is down, so the changes are really small. Still if you work in the Philippines compared to here, you earn more [in Taiwan]. The salary is good here,” he said.

Some Taiwanese consider migrants a threat as their numbers grow and their lifestyles influence the formerly more homogenous Chinese society.
 
But Taiwan’s government expects higher economic growth this year than last, and investment bank Barclays Capital said the island attracted a notable $5 billion in foreign direct investment over the past four months.
 
Taipei is widely expected to allow more Southeast Asian migrant workers to settle in Taiwan in order to sustain the recent faster rate of economic growth.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7893
JPY
USD
107.68
GBP
USD
0.6238
CAD
USD
1.1214
INR
USD
61.185

Rates may not be current.