Thursday, 27 January 2011

Domestic workers excluded from the wage hike in Taiwan

Press Release
24 January 2011
Exclusion of HSWs in new minimum wage in Taiwan is discriminatory and unjust

“While the new minimum wage is a welcome news, the exclusion of almost half of foreign workers in Taiwan who are caregivers or work in households makes it discriminatory and unjust.”

This was declared today by Joram Calimutan, program coordinator, of the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), a regional migrant centre based in Hong Kong as Taiwan’s Council of Labor Affairs earlier announced a new minimum wage for industrial-, agricultural-, and institution-based workers for this year.

The recent increase in minimum wage adjusted the monthly minimum salary to NT$17,880.00 from NT$17,280 or an hourly minimum rate of NT$98 from NT$95.

“The exclusion of household service workers (HSWs) who are mostly women from the Philippines and Indonesia reflects that the government of Taiwan merely views them as cheap labor. It is no different from other governments, like in Hong Kong, that do not recognize domestic workers as decent work. The Taiwan government does not even include the HSWs and house-based caregivers/ caretakers to its Labor Standards Law,” he remarked.

Calimutan added that the new policy puts HSWs in a more lamentable situation as they already work for over 12 hours a day, on-call for 24 hours, have irregular holidays and rest days, and already suffer physical, sexual, moral and verbal abuse from their employers.

“On top of these, they still suffer from the high fees that brokers in Taiwan charge. These unscrupulous brokers extort money from foreign workers who are forced to give in to their demands just so they can get or keep their jobs. The exclusion only adds up to the vulnerability of HSWs,” he remarked.

Calimutan also mentioned that, “the recent wage announcement exposes the non-compliance of Taiwan government to International Labor Organizations standards and disrespects of human rights and dignity of workers. The ILO already made a ruling against the exclusion of foreign domestic workers to labor ordinance of its member countries”.

On ILO’s declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work, Item 2.c. states the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

Today based on Philippine Overseas Employment Administration there are about 25,000 Filipino HSWs in Taiwan. “Countries like the Philippines should lodge protests with concerned bodies and assert the right of their nationals against discrimination. They should show their will to protect their workers and not be merely content with the income that their respective governments generate from their nationals in Taiwan,” he added.

APMM said that they will coordinate with various organizations in Taiwan in order to come up with plans on how the exclusion can be challenged both in Taiwan and in the international arena.

“Foreign workers in Taiwan are always some of the first to get hit by anti-labor policies of the government. Now, even policies that may prove beneficial to them are denied from half of the total foreign workers in Taiwan. This has got to stop,” Calimutan concluded.

Reference:      Joram Calimutan
                 Program Coordinator
                 Tel. (852) 2723-7536 / 5360-5497

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Other positive news on domestic workers around Asia

Karnataka Domestic Workers’ Movement members marched through the streets of Bangalore on January 8 and presented a memorandum of demands to the labour minister. Protesters wore aprons with the message “domestic workers are workers”. Their demands include one day off a week, recognition of domestic work under the unorganised sector, formation of a separate welfare board of domestic workers, compulsory enrolment of all domestic workers with the labour department, and inclusion of domestic workers under the Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill. (from

A Bangladesh delegation put forward demands to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states at a two-day conference beginning Jan 18th in Dubai of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The demands included extending the tenure of job contracts to five years and setting a minimum wage of $300 for its workers in the Gulf countries. This is important as there is no current minimum wage for migrant domestic workers.

The flow-on consequences of the Malaysian ban

Since Indonesian domestic workers were banned from working in Malaysia after the string of "maid abuses" publicized in the media, there has been a lot of flow on effects which need to be considered.

From the Indonesian side of the ban, many Indonesian women are unable to work as domestic workers in Malaysia, who either have worked there before or wanted to work in a country close by and with a similar culture. Instead they are forced to go to further away, such as to the Arab countries, where the culture is very different and the employment conditions not much better than Malaysia. On the positive side there was recently a report that Singapore is wanting to attract more Indonesian domestic workers. According to a resent article in TODAYonline, 17 employment agencies, in Singapore will be increasing the monthly salaries of new Indonesian domestic workers from $380 to $450 to compete with Hong Kong and Taiwan (which still pay a much higher rate) apparently there will be no change in the Foreign Placement Fee, but that remains to be seen. The other effect for Indonesians is that since the legal channels are shut, more domestic workers are being smuggled or trafficked into Malaysia then ever before, this is a major concern. Such as the case of Sopiati’s (not her real name) punched almost daily by her employers in Rawang, where she worked for six months without pay after being brought into the country illegally (reported in The Star online). With the shortage of domestic workers in Malaysia, it is the illegal and unscrupulous agents which are benefiting. 

Prior to the ban, Indonesia was sending 3,000 domestic helpers to Malaysia a month, 80% of Malaysians domestic workers! So you can image the shortage of domestic workers that Malaysia is currently facing, apparently 50,000 households are on waiting lists. This means that desperate households may be less careful about the agency that their domestic workers come from. The Malay Mail recently ran an interesting story (I don’t care: its a 'maid' problem) on how a household was told that they would have to wait 6 months for a domestic worker, but a unscrupulous agent offered one straight away for much cheaper, its unsurprising that many would take this option. Malaysia is currently trying to deal with the problem by getting more domestic workers in from Cambodia, although apparently they are less likely to renew their contracts and there is a shortage of Cambodian domestic workers willing to fill the vacuum. 

At this stage it would be good for everyone if Malaysia could agree to the extra conditions that the Indonesian government is asking for and sign the new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), they should include migrant domestic workers in their labour laws, give them at least one day off a week, a minimum wage and the right to keep their documentation. Malaysia needs to recognise domestic work as work. 

Friday, 14 January 2011

Good news from UAE

Good news for Filipinos and other foreign workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE): this year, foreign workers there with an expired job contract may obtain a new work permit and transfer to another employer without facing the six-month ban period and without the consent of their sponsor.
For more information and to see the conditions click here