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 Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7537
JPY
USD
103.79
GBP
USD
0.6032
CAD
USD
1.0957
INR
USD
60.522

Rates may not be current.