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Complete welfare system can ensure rights, mend broken hearts

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Earlier this month, a mother of four, surnamed Su, who has three disabled children requiring constant care, accused the government of ignoring the demands of families that have disabled members.

Su said that she was devastated after reading media reports stating that the Ministry of Labor is scheduled to increase the pay of foreign domestic helpers in Taiwan and set down administrative guidelines that will ensure that all foreign caregivers have at least eight hours of rest daily and one day off weekly.

The stories of families with disabled members are truly heartbreaking, and the public can easily understand why they cry out for more help from society and the government. However, though we are sympathetic to what these families have to go through, we should avoid forcing more people, like foreign caregivers, to shoulder such responsibilities on their own.

The stress and responsibility of having to take care of disabled family members sometimes consumes the lives of all involved. Therefore, it is understandable that they would seek help from others. However, we should also not neglect the basic human rights of those foreign caregivers who take on so many burdens. The caregivers are hired to help us; they are not slaves. They should be able to enjoy full and productive lives, including basic human rights, when working for people in Taiwan.

Unlike local citizens, foreign laborers and caregivers do not have legislators or officials to represent them, which, unfortunately, makes it all the more easy for people to forget to protect about or respect their rights. Most developed countries or areas in the Asia, like Singapore and Hong Kong, do not limit residency for foreign laborers, so the foreign labors can form organizations to protect their rights. However, in Taiwan, foreign laborers can only stay nine years at the maximum so as to prevent these laborers becoming citizens or participating in public affairs.

In this case, neither the families with disabled members nor the foreign laborers should be responsible for the flaws in the social welfare system in Taiwan. Both of them are in the minority in the nation with the current social structure. They might not have the opportunities to speak for themselves, but they have to shoulder the results of the policies that will affect their lives.

As a nation that is proud of its protection of human rights, we should not ignore what the foreign laborers have done for Taiwan's economic development or what the families with disabled members have to go through. Lai Chia-jen of the Ministry of Labor said that the long-term care system cannot be based only on foreign workers, and that is the greatest issue that the government should face now.

The prime job for the government right now is to provide care that will plug the holes for both families with disabled members as well as the foreign caregivers. This is so they can take a break from their responsibilities or jobs in which they are constantly taking care of others. Maybe for some politicians it is not their priority to help the minority since they do not have as much influence in society. However, establishing a complete social welfare system will solve numerous social issues that will greatly benefit not only the minority but also the majority of the society.

July 15, 2014    miller.henry641@
Beautifully written. Well said!
July 15, 2014    curtisakbar@
Foreign and domestic care-givers should receive the same rights and treatment. Taiwan has a habit of creating protective laws for its nationals whilst ignoring or neglecting other nationals that legally live and work here.

Social welfare in Taiwan is a complete mess, there isn't enough help for those that need it. One of the reasons why people don't have children is because it's too expensive. Either one parent works and supports the whole family resulting in unfair NHI premiums as legally all dependents should be registered with the working parent. Or both parents work and have to pay excessive fees for childcare/kindergarten due to a lack of government institutions.

Then there are all the expected costs of children; food, clothes, toys, routine medical checks/injections, school uniforms etc.

Also, those that are elderly or incapable of looking after themselves are usually left by the government to be looked after by family members. A similar situation arises; hire someone else to look after them or give up your job and do it yourself. There are very few homes for the elderly and even less government ones.

This situation of social welfare neglect results in either limited or a complete lack of protection to foreign nationals working in Taiwan; whether they are English teachers, manual labourers, carers, bankers etc. The major difference between CEOs, scientists and the common worker, is that the former has the money and power to just say 'Screw you guys, I'm going home/ to another country' and the latter suffers being low paid and over worked.
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