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

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Mali, a Way Station for Syrians Headed to Europe

    Another door may be closing for Syrians fleeing the conflict in their country, this time in Africa

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    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.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8691
    JPY
    USD
    106.57
    GBP
    USD
    0.6891
    CAD
    USD
    1.2750
    INR
    USD
    66.589

    Rates may not be current.