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April 29, 2017

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Taiwan's Council of Labor Affairs officially upgraded to full ministry

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) was formally upgraded to a ministry on Monday, with the minister vowing to improve the country's labor environment.

The Ministry of Labor plans to prioritize certain tasks to safeguard the welfare of workers and ensure the sustainable development of businesses, said Labor Minister Pan Shih-wei at the opening ceremony, which was attended by President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Jiang Yi-huah.

The creation of a Ministry of Labor to replace the council is part of a government restructuring plan.

Pan said the ministry will try to help the country "move upward" and will seek to improve income and job opportunities for workers.

He said, however, that greater public consensus is needed to tackle current labor issues as they are much more complicated than in the past, given the globalized economy.

The ministry will seek to facilitate more dialogue between employers and employees, improve labor education and retirement and insurance systems, and push for a better work-life balance for workers, Pan said.

It will also aim to lower employment discrimination, improve gender equality in the workplace, create safer and healthier work environments, strengthen workforce development, improve employment security and participate in more international organizations, he added.

On the occasion, Ma called on businesses to increase wages for their employees, saying that companies in general had a good year last year.

Several labor groups, including the Taiwan International Workers Association and the National Alliance of Laborers from Closed Factories, gathered outside the ministry building on Monday in protest against low wages.

Average real wages in Taiwan declined 3.4 percent between 2000 and 2012, and 3.5 percent between 2008 and 2012, the groups said, citing official statistics.

They criticized the government as having failed to improve wages for workers, saying that all the wealth has gone to corporations while their employees have been left in poverty.

The protestors were kept 200 meters away from the building by police. They had planned to gift the labor minister with an ice sculpture to symbolize salary freezes.

Pan told reporters after the ceremony that he has witnessed some companies increasing their wages, which he believes is a sign of economic recovery.

"We will work on this more and find opportunities to talk to businesses," he said.

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