New labor rules result in fewer 'runaway' migrant workers: MOL

Taipei, June 14 (CNA) Since the Taiwan government implemented a set of new labor regulations last December, the number of absconding migrant workers has declined, the Ministry of Labor (MOL) said Wednesday. The ministry's statement was in direct contradiction to a comment by Tai Hung-yi, head of the Taiwan Silk and Filament Weaving Industrial Association, who was cited the previous day in the media as saying that there had been a sharp increase in the number of absconding migrant workers since the government introduced new rules on the work week. The MOL, however, said its statistics proved that Tai's claim was not true. Only 1.05 percent foreign blue-collar workers were listed as unaccounted for in the period January to April, compared with 1.27 percent in the same period of last year and 1.31 percent in the first four months of 2015, the MOL said. Under the new work day rules, the total maximum number of work hours has been reduced to 40 hours a week from 84 hours every two weeks. Workers, including migrant workers covered by the Labor Standards Act, are also now entitled to one mandatory day off and one "flexible" rest day a week, whereas in the past, there was only one mandatory day off per week. The MOL said that in order to reduce the number of absconding migrant workers, it has set up care stations at airports and a 1955 hotline for blue-collar workers to lodge complaints against their employers. The ministry said it has also been pushing for direct hiring, stepped up management of brokers, and helped pass a law amendment that allows migrant workers in Taiwan to be re-hired without having to leave the country every three years. Labor groups have long said that exploitation by brokers and poor working conditions in Taiwan are the main reasons why some migrant workers run away from their jobs.