MANILA, Philippines – Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Taiwan may heave a sigh of relief as Taiwan’s economic stimulus package may reduce the risk of further OFW retrenchments, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) said.
MECO resident representative Antonio I. Basilio said Taiwan’s economic stimulus program and an improvement in its export prospects could significantly reduce the number of retrenched Filipino workers in Taiwan.
Although the steady employment projections depend on an improvement in the economies of Taiwan’s major markets like the US, the country is in the midst of an economic stimulus program to pump cash into the economy.
Each Taiwanese citizen is being given cash vouchers for spending and new infrastructure and construction projects in the pipeline. Basilio said these efforts may result in new jobs for Filipinos.
Meanwhile, Basilio said MECO and DOLE had embarked on a two-pronged approach to the OFWs employment problem.
It has sought to preserve current OFW jobs via a dialogue with employers and workers to seek a common ground on cost-cutting measures and flexible work programs so employers do not have to let go of their Filipino workers. It has also negotiated with the Taiwan Council on Labor Affairs (CLA) to relax its rules on quotas for foreign workers to give employers more flexibility in retaining their Filipino workers.
Before the financial crisis, the manufacturing industry of Taiwan employed 160,000 foreign workers of which around 100,000 were in the electronics industry. Some 63,000 Filipino workers are employed in different factories mostly in the electronics sector. Another 27,000 Filipinos work in the services sector and in other industries which have thus far not been hit hard by the crisis.
Beginning in the last quarter of last year, Taiwanese exporters hit hard by order cancellations began to scale down or even close their operations, resulting in lay offs of Filipino workers. The factory jobs are considered higher-end jobs for Filipinos because of the higher minimum wage and the significant overtime pay formerly given.
At of the end of January, MECO had assisted 4,740 displaced OFWs from 95 companies mainly from the manufacturing sector. On the other hand, it facilitated the deployment of some 4,445 new workers to Taiwan over the same period, for a net job loss in Taiwan of 295. Other sectors in Taiwan like services, such as household and tourism, and fisheries remain resilient and have hired new Filipino workers.
However, for the retrenched Filipino workers, the DOLE negotiated with the employers to ensure that they were paid the proper wages, separation and benefits, and given the airfare to go home after their contracts.
Basilio said MECO has also been closely coordinating with Taiwan-based OFW groups and socio-civic organizations in the setting up and operation of a Filipino Workers Ugnayan Center. The facility serves as venue for OFW group activities, such as meetings, induction ceremonies, group discussions, and trainings.
“It is also used as shelter for distressed and displaced workers awaiting the results of their complaints. The facility is likewise used as venue for skills retooling programs for OFWs such as the basic computer training, and other short term courses on food preparation and preservation. Language courses, like Japanese and Mandarin are set to open on April as well as courses on financial literacy, computer and cell phone repair,” said Basilio.- Ma. Elisa P. Osorio, Philippine Star