In Taiwan, NT$22,000 is the minimum wage a worker must be paid and also the starting line of salary for a college graduate. The government has made promises to change the situation but has failed to achieve their goal.
As president Tsai Ing-wen has been advocating the need to transform Taiwan’s working environment, the Labor Standards Act was implemented on March 1st.
Since president Tsai has been in office, Taiwan’s labor regulations have undergone two revisions. While the government claims to have decreased working hours, workers occupied the streets to protest against the amendment.
Many say that new laws violate workers’ rights, though most regulations stated that employers must receive permission from unions or the labor-management meetings and report to “competent authorities.” However, unless the government persists in their duty supervising, none of the precautions will be effective.
There are five major adjustments:
1. Loosening the five day work week policy.
The Five Day Work Week allowed employees to retain at least two days off every seven days, one statutory rest day and one regular day off. By loosening the restrictions to two days off every fourteen days, workers in certain industries might face twelve days of continuous labor.
Despite the government leaving room for negotiation between workers and employers, people are still extremely concerned that their rights will slowly diminish. It seems that instead of protecting workers’ rights, it has only increased their burden.
Nevertheless, the Ministry of Labor had released a list of industries qualified to arrange working hours under new regulations, most of which are manufacturing industries and government businesses. The Ministry will announce other eligible businesses after further consultations.
2. Overtime work shouldn’t exceed 54 hours.
Under the same condition which the maximum amount of overtime hours in three months is set at 138 hours, the amendment now allows monthly overtime hours to be added up to 54 hours. By making overtime hours more flexible, workers can adjust working hours based on the amount of work they face.
3. Overtime hours calculated in actual hours worked.
Present labor policy and the amendment both imply that workers must get extra pay for working overtime. However, instead of computing working hours in four hour periods, employers now only need to pay for the actual hours employees had worked.
4. Minimum of eight hours between shifts
In 2015, regulations were adjusted giving employees of all careers at least an 11 hour rest between shifts. Yet, before the policies could be put into action, the Legislative Yuan announced that specific industries can now decrease rest hours to eight hours, most of which are government-owned companies and manufacture industries.
5. Annual leave can be carried forward to next year.
Unlike pre-amendment laws where employees had to take their annual leave during the year and get paid for unused days off; annual leave can now be carried forward to the upcoming year.
While some people perceive it as a chance to receive a longer break, others thought that being unable to take annual leave in the first year only makes getting a break next year even more hopeless.
Taiwan’s working environment has caused workers to have unequal working hours and paychecks, further leading to citizens going overseas for better opportunities. While Taiwan still sees China as a threatening neighbor and is unwilling to accept the fact that they are slowly rising, China has been announcing new policies hoping to attract more Taiwanese experts and graduates.
The world changes rapidly, and if Taiwan can only solve the questions laying immediately before it, Taiwan will always be a step behind.