Nation seeks migrant laborers from Sri Lanka
By Ted Chen, The China PostTAIPEI, Taiwan -- In light of a changing political landscape observed throughout Southeast Asia, the Taiwan Government has been seeking alternative sources of migrant workers, including Sri Lanka and Myanmar, marking a renewal of efforts since 2004.
October 2, 2013, 12:09 am TWN
According to reports, the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) in August sent an envoy to Thailand, marking the end of a nearly decade-long lull in labor-related state visits. Included in the itinerary were visits to Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
Following the visit, the Sri Lankan government indicated a high level of interest in exporting labor to Taiwan. The CLA stated that with the consent of its counterparts, it will strive to overcome technical obstacles such as work visas, health examinations, vaccinations, establishment of direct flights, and work training, adding that Taiwanese companies may expect the arrival of Sri Lankan laborers as early as next year.
However, the CLA envoy canceled a stop in Myanmar shortly before departure, citing numerous diplomatic issues that remain to be resolved.
As of the end of August, migrant workers in Taiwan were last tallied at 470,000, a figure indicating a persisting labor shortage. Taiwan has been drawing labor from the staple countries of Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, however, in light of a changing political environment in Southeast Asia, businesses have been clamoring for alternative sources of migrant laborers.
The CLA estimates that at 205,000, Indonesians are the most numerous laborers working in Taiwan, followed by Vietnam at 116,000, the Philippines at 85,000, and Thailand at 62,000.
Two decades ago, prior to the official approval for businesses to hire migrant workers, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were Taiwan's main origins for foreign laborers. Since then the government has been seeking to normalize labor exchanges in the international community. However, efforts to establish official labor exchanges with Bangladesh in 2004 were thwarted by mainland China, with governing bodies achieving no progress in the interim. Similarly, a move to bring workers from Mongolia was scuttled last year due to differences of culture.
Of Sri Lanka's population of 21 million, over 1.8 million are working overseas, said the CLA. As a nation with a high proportion of English-speaking citizens, Sri Lanka is able to supply migrant laborers for both industrial and domestic service jobs, said the CLA.