Migrant Workers in Taiwan

Hello everyone,

As a new comer here, I guess many of you are also “migrant workers” in Taiwan–in a broader sence of the term. I’m a labor activist and a graduate student on the migrant workers in Taiwan. I and three other friends of mine have set up a weblog site: Taiwan Migrant’s Forum, we discuss everything related to the migrant workers here in Taiwan. As you know, the labor condition of the migrant workers here is quite bad, their labor rights are ignored. If you’re interested on the migrant issue, feel free to visit our site any time!

That is an interesting initiative, Charlie. Indeed, Forumosa is inhabited largely by white-collar migrant workers, although some people may imagine that they belong to an elevated category known as “expatriates.” In fact, “expatriate” really means a person living outside their own country, so all international migrant workers are expatriates. Of course, the interprovincial migrant workers in places like China are not expatriates. Just how far do you have to travel to become a migrant worker, anyway?

There is something called an “expatriate package,” which is may be enjoyed by people who are recruited by an employer in their own country and then sent abroad. The “expatriate package” is supposed to compensate for the terrible hardships they will face in their offshore postings. Most of us Forumosans are not so fortunate.

We white-collar migrants have more in common with our blue-collar cousins (otherwise known as overseas contract workers or OCWs) than some people realise. On the other hand, there are big differences, too.

It would be nice if we had more input from OCWs here on Forumosa. I guess most of them have neither sufficient free time nor access to a computer.

Indeed, not too many of the migrant workers (I mean the blue collar ones) have the time and access to the computer and internet, but actullay still some of them do. Some of my friends would use the computer of their emplyers sometimes, or in internet cafe, to read and send e-mails, mostly. Some friends of mine who work in the factory even have bought computers of their own. Many of the Filipino migrant workers are of higher degree, and even some Indonesians, too. They have learned about and use computers and internet in their country before coming to Taiwan, even if the facilities are not that good.

Ya, you’ve pointed out an interesting point: the distinction between the two categories “migrant workers” and “expatriate”. They are both migrant workers in different classes.

Furthermore, when the Taiwanese politicians and many of the upper-class talk about “globalization”, one of the first things they would think about would always be English: everyone has to learn to speak perfect English from the childhood, and everything should be written bilingually with English, so that the foreigners would feel friendly. It’s not that wrong, in some way. But if you think of the truth that there are more than 300,000 migrant workers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, you’ll see how ridiculous the former image is. Surely, when they think about the foreigners, they only think about the white, English-speaking upper-class “professionals” who wear the suits and bring the suitcases in the shining tall buildings. What about the migrant workers who do the 3D works? They are not “foreigners”, they’re just “wai-lao”, the migrant workers, or “wai-yong”, the migrant domestic helpers. They can’t stay long, and they come to Taiwan “just to earn our money and have a good fortune back home” (yes, although very far from what I know, that’s how many people think), and they can’t vote, so they don’t have to be considered at all. The Filipinos are a bit more fortunate under the discrimination, for many of them speak better English than most of the Taiwanese, and they even use the English to show off (a kind of revenge, though sadly still under the “mainstream” image that English means “civilazed” and quality), but for the migrant worker from other countries and who can’t speak in English, it’s hard to imagine how they survive strongly under such an unfriendly and discriminative atmosphere.

That’s it for now. These are not really a sort of response, but a feedback from my own experience.