AS the impetus of Saudization and similar policies continued to slash the number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East, a new market, nearer to the Philippines, is emerging: Taiwan.
Due to its aging population and declining birth rate, Taiwan has a shortage of 120,000 jobs and has prepared plans to attract international students and migrant workers, according to ESG Consultancy Services Inc. founder Emmanuel S. Geslani.
“Filipino migrant workers who have stayed in Taiwan for six years have a path to permanent residency while students can work part time,” Geslani, a recruitment consultant, said.
He cited as basis the announcement by Chen Mei-Ling, Taiwan’s National Development Council (NDC) Minister, who will propose the job opening to the Legislative Yuan, the country’s parliament.
According to a draft economic immigration bill, the measure is aimed at retaining overseas students who receive high-school or vocational-school degrees in Taiwan. Also included are migrant workers with six years of work experience in Taiwan.
International students enrolled in specific education programs, such as the Overseas Youth Vocational Training School or Industry-University Cooperation Courses designed for youth from Southeast Asian and South Asian countries, are also eligible.
If the bill passes the legislature, Hong Kong and Macau residents who meet the criteria can also apply to work in Taiwan as a midlevel skilled workers.
As of August last year, Taiwan’s industrial and service sectors had a manpower shortfall of 218,000 employees. According to a statement from the NDC, 55 percent of the total shortfall, or 120,000 people, are characterized as medium-skilled jobs.
Midlevel skilled workers range from professional and technical
assistants to machine operators, drivers and skilled assembly-line workers.
Under the proposal, foreign midlevel skilled workers must be paid a minimum monthly salary of NT$41,000 (P74,000 ) in the industrial sector and NT$32,000 (P57,000) in the social-welfare sector so that it does not affect employment opportunities for local Taiwanese workers, the NDC statement said.
Chen said in a news briefing last month the relatively higher wage thresholds for migrant skilled workers would prevent foreign workers from taking jobs from Taiwanese workers, but are still low enough to draw interest from local employers because of the many positions that remain unfilled.
At present there are 140,000 migrant workers who are factory employees earning NT$24,000 (P42,000) per month plus overtime. The take-home pay for a caregiver amounts to NT$19,000 (P34,000).
The bill to be filed by Chen also includes regulations for migrant skilled workers to apply for permanent residency, naturalization and dependent visas for their family.
Bringing in midlevel skilled workers is not only essential to meeting the needs of industry to upgrade but also to offset the aging of Taiwan’s population, Chen said.
The number of births in the first quarter of the year was down several thousand from the same period of last year, she added, and Taiwan’s population growth rate will begin to turn negative in 2025 if the trend continues.
The government is also planning to try to attract foreign medium-skilled workers to the Republic of China, especially those who have been employed by overseas Taiwanese enterprises, but it will first assess the possible socioeconomic effects, she said.
Latest data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (Poea) reveal the total number of Filipinos in Taiwan in 2009 was at 94,283. For the whole of East and South Asia, the government’s stock estimates of Filipinos working in neighboring countries hit a total of 1,074,496 nine years ago.
In 2009, Kuwait, which was classified as belonging to the West Asia region, was host to a total of 155,744 OFWs. The whole of West Asia posted 2,415,896 total OFWs in the 13 countries in the region that included Saudi Arabia.
The POEA said there was a 4.42-percent increase in the deployment of Filipino workers to Taiwan from 62,958 in 2015 to 65,364 in 2016. Kuwait’s pull was stronger, registering a 27.43-percent increase in deployment to 109,615 in 2016 from just 86,019 in 2015.
For the whole of Asia, there was a 22.35-percent increase in the deployment from 399,361 in 2015 to 488,615 in 2016. For the whole of Middle East, there was a 15.82-percent increase in the deployment from 913,958 in 2015 to 1,058,514 in 2016.
Image credits: Charaspong Ubolsing | Dreamstime.com