台灣應該對其招聘移工的做法進行徹底改革

台灣應該對其招聘移工的做法進行徹底改革

© Jose Lopes Amaral/NurPhoto via Getty Images

關於招聘做法的報告,建議台灣徹底廢除移工支付的仲介費,並為家戶移工提供勞動法保護。

今天,FairSquare Projects 在一份長達102頁的關於台灣和菲律賓招聘移工做法的報告中指出,台灣政府應取消所有外籍勞移工的服務費,並實施一系列其他改革,以便確實改善在台就業的移工的勞動條件。

FairSquare Projects 是一間位於英國的非營利人權組織,重點關注移民工人的權利問題。作為「五走廊計畫」的一部分,該報告研究了菲律賓工人是如何被雇傭到台灣工作的。「五走廊計畫」一直尋求為各國政府提供指導,以便他們可以採取措施來確保符合聯合國標準的公平、道德招聘。台灣和菲律賓是該計畫所研究的九個國家的其中之二。

關於台灣,FairSquare 還建議當局立即將家政工人家庭幫傭和護理人員家庭監護工置於勞動法的保護之下,並將該國的遠洋漁業置於勞動部的監管之下,同時給予這些勞工和其他外國勞工一樣的保護。該報告贊揚了台灣在相關領域所做出的努力,比如完善的法律、法規框架,為外國勞移工提供的申訴機制等,還指出他們在工作流動性方面也取得了積極進展,雖然法律限制仍將勞工與雇主綁定在一起。

FairSquare 聯合董事尼古拉斯·麥吉漢 (Nicholas McGeehan) 表示,「台灣有能力和專業知識確保被聘僱到該國的勞工的招聘過程是合乎道德的,並在勞工抵達後得到公平對待。如此多的外籍勞移工持續陷入困境並遭受剝削和虐待,應該引起這一尊重人權的進步國家的嚴肅關注,並成為這一重要問題的領導者。」

在本項目中,我們訪問過的幾乎所有勞工都為確保在台灣找到工作而支付了大筆金錢,受雇於嚴格遵守「雇主支付」仲介費的電子公司的工人除外。儘管台灣的仲介機構每年向這些外籍勞工合法收取大約4.84億美元的服務費,但我們的研究發現,很多仲介公司似乎主要是為雇主服務的,損害了他們本該代表的外移籍勞工的利益。我們的報告建議,根據仲介費的國際標準和「雇主付費原則」,台灣雇主應該支付與招聘相關的所有費用,包括目前由外籍勞工支付的全部服務費。

從研究中可以清楚看到,很多在台灣的移工的體驗都是正向的。一位菲律賓移工在接受採訪時表示,她用在台灣工廠工作賺來的錢在菲律賓購買了一家碾米廠和一家商店。在台灣的電子行業中,勞工獲得正面回報的可能性最大。原因在於電子行業的跨國公司注意自身形象,遵守行為準則(包括仲介費的「雇主付費」原則),也要求其供應商遵守這些法則,不過該行業仍然存在一些令人嚴重擔憂的問題。今年6月份,為了因應新冠疫情,一些台灣知名電子公司只允許移工在上班時間離開公司提供的宿舍。在另外一些情況下,地方政府發佈的限制人們自由活動的禁令中,對移工的要求要比普通民眾嚴格得多。這些禁令,並不是由中央衛生當局強制實施來控制新冠疫情的,而是由地方官員隨意頒布的,同時,還污蔑移民工人為病毒攜帶者。地方政府的這些舉措遭到台灣勞工和人權組織的嚴厲批評,台灣最高監察機關——監察院也對此開展了調查。台灣勞工權益組織——桃園市群眾協會所做的一項調查顯示,在2021年影響台灣的最新疫情中,多達60%的移民工人被禁止在空閒時間離開住處。桃園市群眾協會的一名代表說: 「台灣對移民工人的歧視是系統性的,但疫情使情況變得更加糟糕。」

剝削性或非法的工作條件

接受本項目採訪的很多勞工和專家都講述了剝削性或非法的工作條件。一些勞工(特別是在遠洋漁業工作的漁工)所談到的受虐待情形,說明對外籍勞工的保護還有著很大的不足之處。一位菲律賓漁工說:「有些船長在得不到他們想要的東西時會變成魔鬼。」 另外一位39歲的家政工人家戶移工告訴我們,因為勞動時間過長,又在言語中遭受凌辱,她甚至考慮跳窗逃跑。她最終得以更換雇主,但大部分工資仍用來償還債務,包括為在台灣找到工作而欠下的10萬批索(2,085美元)。

台灣還允許其法院強制菲律賓勞工償還為確保在台灣找到工作而在菲律賓所欠的貸款。台灣法律扶助基金會曾經代表幾百名勞工對台灣法院的判決提出質疑。案件的另一方是台灣的借貸機構,他們從菲律賓的借貸機構那裡購買了勞工所欠債務,並通過法院判決強行將這些債務從勞工工資中扣除。

本報告的調查結果和建議是以我們遠程或面對面方式所做的69次訪談為基礎的,我們採訪了一系列的利益相關者和專家,訪談對象包括移工、致力於移工權利的非政府組織、工會代表、學者、智庫、記者、律師、仲介公司以及國際勞工組織(ILO)和國際移民組織(IOM)等國際組織的員工和代表。在本項目的各個階段,台灣勞動部都以面談和書面形式提供了重要見解和訊息。

本報告的完整副本可在 Fivecorridorsproject.org 上下載。
如需評論,請通過 [email protected] 或 +33 7 54 03 53 61 聯繫 Nicholas McGeehan

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Taiwan should overhaul recruitment practices for foreign workers

Taiwan should overhaul recruitment practices for foreign workers

Migrants workers protesting against Taiwan’s recruitment and employment practices, April 2017, Taipei City. (© Jose Lopes Amaral/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Report into recruitment practices recommends that manpower agency fees be abolished and domestic workers provided labour law protection.

The Taiwanese authorities should abolish all monthly service fees for foreign workers and implement a series of other reforms in order to significantly improve conditions for foreign workers in the country, FairSquare said today in a 102-page report into recruitment practices in Taiwan and the Philippines.

FairSquare Projects is a UK-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The report, which examined how workers from the Philippines are recruited for work in Taiwan, was part of the Five Corridors Project, which has been seeking to provide guidance on what states can do to ensure fair and ethical recruitment, in line with UN standards. Taiwan and the Philippines were two of the nine countries under study.

In relation to Taiwan, FairSquare also recommended that the authorities immediately bring domestic workers and caregivers under the protection of labour law, and that they bring the country’s distant water fishing sector under the regulatory authority of the Ministry of Labour and grant them the same protections as other foreign workers. The report commended Taiwan’s efforts in a range of areas, including its impressive legal and regulatory framework, its provision of grievance mechanisms to foreign workers, and noted some positive developments on job mobility despite legal restrictions that continue to tie workers to their employers. 

“Taiwan has the capacity and the know-how to ensure that workers brought into the country are recruited ethically and treated fairly on arrival. That so many foreign workers continue to fall through the cracks and into exploitation and abuse should be of serious concern to a progressive rights-respecting state that could be a leader on this critical issue,” said Nicholas McGeehan, FairSquare’s co-director.

Almost all of the workers interviewed in the course of this project had paid significant sums of money to secure jobs in Taiwan, with the exception being electronics workers employed by firms following strict “employer pays” recruitment fee policies. Every year, the recruitment sector in Taiwan earns approximately US $484 million in fully legal monthly service fees from its foreign workers, but our research found that many of these recruitment agents appear to primarily serve the interests of Taiwanese employers, to the detriment of the foreign workers whom they are also supposed to represent. The report recommends that employers pay all the costs associated with recruitment, including all monthly service fees currently paid by foreign workers, in line with international standards on recruitment fees and the “employer pays principle”.

It is clear from research that many foreign workers in Taiwan have positive experiences. One Filipino migrant worker interviewed for the project that she had bought a rice mill and a shop in the Philippines with the money she had earned working in Taiwanese factories. Positive worker outcomes are most likely in Taiwan’s electronics sector, where image-sensitive international companies adhere to codes of conduct, which include the ‘employer pays’ principle on recruitment fees, and which also apply to their suppliers, but serious concerns remain in that sector too. In June this year, it emerged that some high-profile electronics companies in Taiwan have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by forbidding migrant workers from leaving their company-provided accommodation, except to go to work.

In some cases, local government officials issued orders that placed heavier restrictions on migrant workers’ freedom of movement than for the general population. These restrictions were not mandated by central health authorities to control COVID but were arbitrarily imposed by local officials and stigmatised migrant workers as disease carriers. These measures came under heavy criticisms by Taiwan’s labour and human rights civil society and are the subject of an investigation by the government’s ombudsperson body, the Control Yuan. Taiwanese labour rights group Serve the People Association conducted a survey that suggested that in the latest Covid outbreak to affect Taiwan in 2021, as many as 60% of migrant workers have been forbidden from leaving their accommodation in their free time. “Discrimination of migrant workers in Taiwan is systemic, but the pandemic has made it a lot worse,” said a representative of Serve The People.

Exploitative or illegal working conditions
Many workers and numerous experts described exploitative or illegal working conditions, and some – particularly those in the country’s distant water fishing sector – spoke of abuses that indicate serious gaps in protection for foreign workers. “There are captains who turn into devils when they don’t get what they want,” one Filipino fisherman said. One 39-year old domestic worker recounted how overwork and verbal abuse led her to consider jumping out of a window to escape from her Taiwanese employers. She was able to transfer employers but she still spends most of her salary repaying debts, including the 100,000 Pesos (US $2,085) she paid to get her job in Taiwan.

Taiwan also allows its courts to enforce the repayment of loans that Filipino workers take out in the Philippines to secure jobs in Taiwan. The Taiwanese Legal Aid Foundation (TLAF) has represented hundreds of workers who have challenged Taiwanese court orders sought by Taiwanese lending agencies, who effectively buy workers’ debt from Philippines-based lending agencies and use court orders to enforce deductions from workers’ salaries.

The report’s findings and recommendations are based on 69 interviews with a wide range of stakeholders and experts either remotely or in person in Taiwan, including migrant workers, NGOs working on migrant workers’ rights, trade union representatives, academics, think-tanks, journalists, lawyers, recruitment agencies, employers and representatives of intergovernmental organisations such as the ILO and the IOM. Taiwan’s Ministry of Labour provided important insight and information at various stages throughout the project, both in person and in writing.

A full copy of the report is available at the dedicated Five Corridors Project website

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Philippines should do more to incentivize fair and ethical recruitment

Philippines should do more to incentivize fair and ethical recruitment

Applicants look at job offers in the window of a recruitment agency in Manila. © REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo/Files via Alamy

Report into recruitment practices recommends that Philippine authorities abolish all recruitment fees for overseas workers and set up a taskforce to investigate licensed recruitment agencies.

The Philippine authorities should abolish all recruitment fees for its overseas workers, in line with internationally accepted definitions, and implement a series of other reforms to effectively incentivize fair and ethical recruitment in the country, FairSquare Projects said today in a 102-page report into recruitment practices in Taiwan and the Philippines.

FairSquare Projects is a UK-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The report, which examined how workers from the Philippines are recruited for work in Taiwan, was part of the Five Corridors Project, which has been seeking to provide guidance on what states can do to ensure fair and ethical recruitment.

In relation to the Philippines, FairSquare also recommended that the authorities institute an ethical recruitment framework into its licensing and regulatory machinery, pass legislation that explicitly prohibits Philippine lending agencies from selling migrant worker debt to foreign lending agencies, and enable prospective new agencies to obtain a license without having already identified new markets and received job orders. The report commended the Philippines’s efforts in a range of areas, including its impressive legal and regulatory framework and its extensive and well-resourced overseas bureaucracy, which can provide direct support and assistance to its overseas workforce, its use of standard employment contracts and its efforts to exercise some level of control over foreign employers and recruitment agents. It also recognised the progress that the Philippines had made in tackling illegal recruitment, but was critical of what it described as a narrow characterisation of this offence.

“The Philippines has long had a reputation as being the origin country that offers the best protection for its nationals overseas, but it faces very little competition in this regard and its overseas workers continue to be subjected to unfair recruitment and serious abuses abroad” said Nicholas McGeehan, FairSquare’s co-director. “One area where it can and should aim to go further is in relation to recruitment fees and in working to ensure that more ethical recruitment agencies can enter the sector and prosper.”

It is clear from research that many Filipinos who migrate for work overseas have positive experiences. One Filipino migrant worker interviewed for the project said that she had bought a rice mill and a shop in the Philippines with the money she had earned working in Taiwanese factories. Domestic workers constitute nearly 50% of Filipino workers overseas and it is their mistreatment abroad that has arguably shaped the protective dimensions of Philippines migration policy in relation to placement fees, standard employment contracts and bilateral labour agreements.

Recruitment agents in the Philippines are prohibited from charging placement fees for their services to domestic workers, for example, whereas for most other workers (seafarers and workers going to countries that themselves prohibit placement fees are the other exceptions) they can charge workers a placement fee equivalent to one month’s salary. The Philippines recruitment sector is quite open about its desire to continue charging workers’ placement fees, and agencies continue to use loopholes in the law to pass recruitment costs onto workers, by over-charging workers for mandatory training, medical and accommodation costs, or working in tandem with lending agencies who charge high-rates of interest on loans. Because of these loopholes, which the authorities have done little to address, the prohibition on domestic workers paying placement fees has had little to no effect – domestic workers pay as much in fees as other categories of workers.

The Philippines introduced what it now describes as a “hard-to-enter, easy-to-go” policy in 2002, with the aim being to make it difficult for new entrants to get into the recruitment sector, and easy for the authorities to strip the licenses from violators of the regulations, but the policy appears to have had the effect of blocking new, ethical actors from entry, and prospective new agents are encouraged to buy pre-existing licenses, circumventing the entry requirements altogether. A further disincentive to ethical recruitment is the volume-driven business model that the Philippines Overseas Employment Agency has encouraged through its annual performance awards which are weighted heavily in favour of deployment and reduces the administrative burden (and associated oversight) of agencies that deploy large numbers of workers abroad. 

Almost all of the Filipino workers interviewed in the course of this project had paid significant sums of money to secure jobs in Taiwan, with the exception being electronics workers employed by firms following strict “employer pays” recruitment fee policies. 

The report’s findings and recommendations are based on more than 70 interviews with a wide range of stakeholders and experts either remotely or in person in Taiwan or the Philippines, including NGOs working on migrant workers’ rights, trade union representatives, academics, think-tanks, journalists, lawyers, recruitment agencies, and representatives of intergovernmental organisations such as the ILO and the IOM. We met with numerous Philippines officials in Taiwan, and in the Philippines, we held preliminary meetings with the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration in November 2019, but were unable to secure follow up meetings with the POEA, or other key agencies such as the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration (OWWA). We sent a summary of the report’s key findings and recommendations to the Philippines authorities in April 2021. 

A full copy of the report is available at the dedicated Five Corridors Project website

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Launch of Five Corridors Project

Multi-country study urges wealthy states to take the strain to ensure fair recruitment of migrant workers and prevent abuse

“Five Corridors” Report into recruitment practices in nine countries urges destination states to do more to incentivize fair recruitment, and calls for the end of tied visa systems and discriminatory exclusions from labour protections. Origin states should fully enforce “zero fee” policies for their nationals.

Governments around the world, and particularly governments that host significant numbers of migrant workers, need to take more concerted action to prevent systematic abuses in transnational recruitment processes, a major research study said today. The FairSquare Five Corridors report, based on research in nine countries and five migration corridors, urged states to focus their resources on a series of key priority issues, and urged destination states to assume the burden of incentivizing fair recruitment models.

The Five Corridors project examined the problems faced by low-wage workers in international recruitment processes, as migration for work has increasingly become temporary or “circular”, with workers returning to their origin countries at the end of their contracts. Exploitation in these recruitment processes, which have spawned a global industry of private recruitment agencies to furnish complex labour supply chains, leave many millions of migrant workers around the world acutely vulnerable to serious human rights abuses, including the charging of exorbitant fees in exchange for jobs and deception over terms and conditions.

FairSquare Projects is a London-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The Five Corridors project focused on five labour migration corridors: Myanmar to Thailand; Nepal to Kuwait; Nepal to Qatar; Philippines to Taiwan; and Mexico to Canada.

Ensuring employers, not workers, pay the costs of recruitment
Drawing on more than 300 in-depth interviews with workers, government officials, businesses and activists, the report urges destination states to take more seriously their responsibility as regulators, and ensure that employers pay the full cost of migrant workers’ recruitment. In many countries, businesses expect to be able to hire migrant workers at little or no cost, knowing that the demand for better paid jobs is so high that workers will accept taking on large debts in order to finance their migration, leaving them at greater risk of forced labour and other abuse. In Thailand, Qatar and Taiwan, researchers found that some employers even charge recruitment agencies “kickback” bribes before they allow them to recruit on their behalf.

“Governments have gone to great lengths to show their commitment to tackling human trafficking and forced labour, yet the abusive recruitment processes that fuel exploitation continue,” said Ambassador (retd) Luis C.deBaca, Five Corridors Project senior adviser, who previously coordinated the US government’s global anti-trafficking work. “To date, the complexity of transnational recruitment has made it easy to dodge responsibility — this research fills that critical gap by using a wealth of evidence to chart a path forward for governments to confront this serious issue.”

Tied visas and exclusion from core labour protections
The report also finds that tied visas, which generally restrict migrant workers to a single employer and link their immigration status to their employment, play a major role in undermining fair recruitment, as they leave workers less able to complain or switch jobs in the event of fraud or abuse. All five destination countries in the study operate some form of tied visas. A worker from Myanmar told us his inability to switch jobs in Thailand was “like you are tied up and beaten up”, while a Mexican agricultural worker in Canada said the system “gives the employer the ability to impose everything he can over the worker, then the worker cannot even say ‘you know what, I’m going to look for work elsewhere’.”

Migrant workers working in domestic work, agriculture, fishing are often also excluded from labour laws, meaning they have little protection against being made to work extreme hours, fewer rights to breaks and days off, and may be unable to join trade unions.

“The combined effect of restrictive tied visa systems, leaving workers at risk of losing their immigration status if they complain, with blanket exemptions from basic protections, is to hugely undermine efforts at ensuring workers’ recruitment is genuinely fair,” said James Lynch, FairSquare’s founding co-director.

The report also calls on origin states, for their parts, to enforce full prohibitions on worker payment of recruitment fees, and urges all states to put in place more effective grievance systems for migrant workers, and to coordinate better across corridors to prevent abuse, including through considering government-government recruitment programmes.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the drivers of migrant workers’ exploitation. The UN labour agency (ILO) has warned that exploitative recruitment fees are likely to increase in light of the contraction of many economies. While some migrant workers have been celebrated as “key workers”, hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs and been stranded in their host countries, often facing stigma and demonisation. In Kuwait, high-profile celebrities blamed migrant workers for the pandemic’s impact on the country, with one calling for them to be “thrown into the desert”, while in Thailand the Prime Minister fuelled xenophobia by blaming migrant workers for spreading the virus and saying they had “brought much grief”.

Background
Recent years have seen an expansion of efforts to develop consensus on the regulatory steps required to ensure fair recruitment. These have been led by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), complemented by the efforts of the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), which stewarded the development of the Dhaka Principles. In 2018, the Global Compact on Migration saw UN member states making a series of commitments on fair recruitment.

A full copy of the report, with a summary of findings is available at the dedicated Five Corridors website. In addition to the main report, FairSquare have published separate, in-depth reports for the migration corridors under study. A launch event for the project’s findings is being held on 7 July 2021, in partnership with the IHRB.

For more information please contact James Lynch or Nick McGeehan.

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Business and human rights in Saudi Arabia

Guidance for businesses operating in Saudi Arabia

FairSquare has collaborated with Amnesty International on the production of new guidance for businesses operating in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has been seeking support from international investors and businesses to help deliver its flagship Vision 2030, with its expansive development plans capped by a set of “giga-projects” designed to spearhead the development of whole new economic sectors.

The Amnesty briefing highlights six of the most salient human rights risks for companies to consider in Saudi Arabia, given the possibility of one or more of them intersecting with their business operations, activities or investments:

– the abuse of migrant worker rights;
– discrimination against women;
– risks linked to surveillance, data gathering and “smart cities”;
– risks linked to land, housing and development projects;
– risks to business partners; and
– war crimes in the conflict in Yemen.

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New FairSquare Policy Brief on migrant workers in Saudi Arabia

New Policy Brief on migrant workers in Saudi Arabia

Credit: Alamy

In a new policy brief released this month, FairSquare finds that the issue of migrant worker rights is likely to become ever more salient for the Saudi Arabian government in coming years.

With hundreds of thousands of migrants needed to construct the giga-projects that sit at the heart of the Crown Prince’s Vision 2030 strategic plan, international attention on this issue is certain to increase in the coming years. Until now migrant workers’ rights have rarely been given prominence, as external focus on the country has mainly centred around freedom of expression, women’s rights and the death penalty. Now flagship projects like Neom, the Red Sea Project and the leisure city of Qiddiya are likely to change all that.

FairSquare’s policy brief, the first in an occasional series, charts the inextricable links between Saudi Arabia’s continued struggle to find meaningful employment for its growing population of citizens and its historic reliance on migrants to staff the private sector. The kafala system, which holds migrants In a restrictive, abusive bind at the hands of their employers, has played an important role in creating and sustaining Saudi national identity, providing a constant demonstration of the enhanced status and standing of citizens as against foreigners. In parallel, businesses have developed a reliance on (an “addiction” to, some say)  migrants and the cheap convenience the kafala system guarantees.

Simply replacing migrants in the private sector with Saudis is unlikely to be feasible in the short term – in many sectors, there is still little overlap between work migrants are doing and the jobs that Saudis are qualified and willing to do. Nevertheless intensified Saudization in the past decade has meant a reduction in the number of migrant workers in the country, a trend sharpened by Covid-19. Such departures have routinely been enforced, accompanied by high levels of brutality, and migrants have increasingly been demonised in the Saudi media.

Ultimately, rather than relying on mass repatriations, the government will need to improve conditions for all workers in the private sector if it wants to entice more Saudis into the workforce and attract the skilled migrants it wants to help it deliver Vision 2030. That – combined with learnings from Qatar, which has come under intense scrutiny over migrant labour conditions and embarked on a reform programme in partnership with the ILO – may explain the government’s deepening engagement with international labour institutions, and rumblings throughout 2020 about the abolition of kafala. Just yesterday, a local newspaper repeated predictions that the government was set to abolish kafala, while the government is set to hold a press conference next week in which it will outline reforms to “increase the competitiveness, attractiveness and flexibility of the Saudi labor market in accordance with international standards”.

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