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June 29, 2017

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Taiwan still has a long way to go on foreign worker rights

The government's recent introduction of a bill that would relax restrictions for foreign workers and foreigners seeking jobs in Taiwan is welcome. The nation has a graying population and a need to increase its exposure to the global community. Opening our doors to people passionate about building a life or a career in Taiwan helps the nation in both fronts.

Among the proposal measures are the creation of six-month visas for job seekers, extendable by six months, and internships for foreign students or new graduates, as well as the cancellation of the requirement that foreign white-collar workers with permanent residence remain in Taiwan for at least 183 days a year to keep that status. The plan would also make life easier for foreign professionals with children, who would no longer need to wait half a year before their offspring are eligible for National Health Insurance coverage.

These are all good policies that will attract talent to Taiwan; but, as some of The China Post's readers have pointed out, more must be done about the difficulties these people face after coming to Taiwan. Suggestions given by our readers include allowing citizenship based on reciprocity, streamlining the process for application of entry/exit permits, tax certification and other documents as well as the extension of alien resident certificate time limits and repelling the rule under which foreigners who change jobs lose their accumulated pension without compensation.

Due to Taiwan's diplomatic limitations, including the lack of extradition treaties with major nations, local telecommunication carriers and credit card issuers are skeptical of providing services for foreigners.

For now, it is very difficult for foreigners to get a Taiwan credit card unless they have endorsements from Taiwanese nationals. Getting a cellphone plan is less daunting but still, the hurdles are high. In an increasingly paperless and connected world, such hardships are too much of a disincentive for the skilled workers Taiwan needs.

Of course the government cannot force companies to change their service policies, but it has to figure out a way out for carriers and card issuers to safely serve the segment of foreign clientele that the government plans to enlarge.

In the long term, the government also needs to close the gap between foreign white-collar and blue-collar workers. Promoting better deals for highly skilled professionals is easier to sell to the Taiwanese public -- but as the population continues aging, the resources for caring and manual professional skills are becoming more and more important. It does not make sense to treat these professionals as second-grade workers.

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