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September 20, 2017

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Foreign laborers need to be shown a little friendliness

Many families in Taiwan have hired migrant workers to look after their elderly or disabled members. Many factories and construction projects rely on foreign labor.

But what has Taiwan done to look after or repay these foreigners who are far away from home making a living in a place that never really accepts them?

We are not just talking about paying them the salaries that they deserve. Social relationships and human rights are much more than just an exchange between work hours and wages.

The Taipei Railway Station has recently made a move mainly targeting foreign workers.

It has blocked off large parts of its huge central hall, designating them as off limits to "assemblies."

The move was prompted by complaints that hundreds of foreign workers would gather in the hall during holidays and weekends. As if having a picnic, they would sit down on the floor, sing, eat and chat, making it difficult for travelers to move around the station.

It seems reasonable to maintain order and ease traffic at the train station, but it leaves one major question unanswered: where are these foreigners supposed to go then?

The Taipei Railway Station is in probably the busiest part of the capital city. Almost all public transportation lines converge there, and it is a natural and convenient place for these foreign workers to get together.

The government, businesses, trade unions and ordinary people have been arguing whether Taiwan should open its doors wider to foreign workers.

Businesses have been urging the government to stop giving foreign workers the minimum wage protection to lower production costs. They say lowering labor costs would attract Taiwanese firms to move their production lines back to Taiwan.

In all of these arguments and discussions, foreign workers are seen as a source of labor or dehumanized tools for boosting Taiwan's economy. They have never been considered as living human beings who would want to have a nice picnic during holidays.

Our foreign labor policy sees the economic side, rather than the human side. It's about managing a labor force, rather than accommodating these workers' needs. They are here to help, not to receive help.

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