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September 20, 2017

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Business, labor leaders clash over expats

The China Post news staff--Business leaders yesterday urged the government to expand the quota of foreign laborers to support their plans to expand production in Taiwan, but labor representatives disagreed, reports said.

Both sides argued heatedly over the calls to import more foreign laborers during the latest meeting in a series of Cabinet-arranged forums on economic issues.

Representatives from the businesses said that if the government wants to attract Taiwanese companies to expand their local production, allowing them to have more foreign laborers will be crucial, according to the reports.

They argued that expansion of production will also create more job opportunities for local workers, the reports said.

Labor representatives said they support Taiwanese companies expanding production operations locally. But they expressed stern objection to the argument that raising the foreign laborer quotas will be the only incentive, the reports said.

Premier Sean Chen remarked during the meeting that foreign labor policy should be based on the premise of increasing employment for local workers, according to his spokesman.

The spokesman, Hu Yu-wei, cited the premier as saying during the meeting that management-labor relationships should be built on a foundation of harmony and prosperity for both sides.

Discussions about imports of foreign workers must also place emphasis on ways to raise the job opportunities of locals, Chen was quoted as saying.

Yin Chi-ming, chairman of the Cabinet-level Council for Economic Planning and Development, who attended the meeting, described the discussions as "peaceful."

Many Taiwanese companies have moved their production bases to China and other countries where labor costs are lower than those in Taiwan.

Some business leaders have said that these companies would only return if Taiwan's labor costs can be lowered.

They have suggested ways to lower the labor costs, such as increasing the quota of foreign workers or reducing their salaries.

But local laborers say such moves will further reduce their job opportunities.

Taiwan's unemployment rate was 4.31 percent in July, but more and more companies are relying on "dispatched workers" — those who are not on their regular payrolls — to reduce their labor costs.

Workers are dispatched to companies by job agencies who are in theory their employers, rather than those companies where they work.

Their jobs are usually unstable and they do not enjoy the benefits of the companies.

The premier did not make a conclusion on the foreign labor issue at the meeting, but he instructed that the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) consider the issues of quotas and salaries when working out the foreign labor policy, the spokesman said.

Chen also said the CLA should seek ways to prevent companies from abusing the "dispatched worker" system.

Such a system is good for meeting seasonal adjustment to the labor force, but there are still many problems, the premier said.

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