"Such is the reality of the Filipino diaspora."
A report in the Taiwan News the other day said that Taiwan now has the lowest birth rate in the world. Taiwan ranked last out of 227 countries, with 1.07 children per woman.
The other countries with the lowest birth rates in the world are South Korea at 1.09, Singapore at 1.15, Macau at 1.21, and Hong Kong at 1.22 children per female.
In the medium term this should mean that the demand for overseas contract workers would remain, even increase, depending on the economic situation in these countries.
With Taiwan’s GDP growing at 3.11 percent in 2020 despite the Covid 19 pandemic — its projected economic growth this year is 4.64 percent — the demand for contract workers from abroad is increasing. That trend is expected to continue in the next few years.
As of February 2021, the Philippines has 150,307 documented contract workers in Taiwan, more than 120,000 of whom are working in the manufacturing sector, from electronic parts to computers, metal fabrication, textiles, plastics and machinery.
The biggest number of contract workers in Taiwan comes from Indonesia, which totals 260,147 of which the bulk, at almost 190,000 are in human health and services, such as in caregiving or household work. Of late, however there are issues between Taiwan and Indonesia insofar as labor recruitment policies are concerned, and the bulk of the demand has mostly been offset by an increase in Vietnamese workers, which now totals 242,711, on track to become the biggest supplier of contract workers here.
The other Asean member-country which supplies contract workers is Thailand, with around 59,000 in Taiwan.
In sum, there are some 712,000 contract workers in Taiwan, not counting professionals such as executives hired by foreign companies with operations here. One outstanding young Filipino, for instance, is the head of Uber’s transport operations here.
With the Manila Economic and Cultural Office unable to issue visas due to the travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, our operations have largely been confined to the renewal of passports of our contract workers here. To service the OFWs, we open our offices on two Sundays each month, the first and third.
Not just based on statistics, but on the flow of visitors applying for passport renewals at the MECO office, we observed that the Filipinos working here are quite young, most of them in their twenties or early thirties. It is a rather sad observation, because these young men and women are at the peak of their productivity, but have to work in foreign countries, separated from their loved ones. How we wish they were part of our domestic work force.
But such is the reality of the Filipino diaspora. Our kababayans are all over the world, from the freezing winters of Central Asia and Northern Europe to the torrid summers of the Middle East, and happily for a million, closer to home such as here in the Philippines.
Our contract workers benefit from the demographic winter in nearby countries, from South Korea, Japan, and here in Taiwan whose economies, at least until artificial intelligence can supplant human labor, will be in demand.
Of course, the state of the pandemic in our country also impacts negatively on increasing the number of OFWs here, as contra-distinguished from Vietnam, where there is a much-lower number of infections. The demand for our workers is there, but the COVID situation is cause for worry, even here, where the pandemic has been controlled excellently.
Despite the challenges posed by China’s increasing assertiveness in the Taiwan Strait, the Taiwanese passport is one of the most widely accepted by countries all over the world. It is considered the 30th strongest, with its passport holders able to visit 146 countries and territories without need of a visitor visa.
Japan came first, and close behind is Singapore, whose citizens have access to 193 and 192 destinations without need of visas.
Taiwan’s strong passport is quite a feat considering that it has only 15 diplomatic allies, reduced from 22 since 2016, with seven countries dropping official recognition and switching to the People’s Republic of China.
In our column two days ago, we wrote about the acceptance of the resignation of Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung, who took full political responsibility for the deadly derailment of a Taroko Express train bound for Hualien in the east coast of this island, which happened April 2.Yesterday, the Executive Yuan (cabinet) announced that the career deputy minister of transport and communications will succeed him.
Minister Wang Kwo-tsai officially took over the MOTC yesterday. Wang also acted as interim minister from October 2018 to January 2019, in the wake of another deadly train accident when the MOTC minister likewise resigned.
Incidentally, there aren’t as many cabinet portfolios here in Taiwan as in our country. For instance, the Ministry of Economic Affairs here is in charge of trade and industry, investments promotion, economic planning, as well as supervision over all government-owned and controlled corporations. The MOTC, as the name implies, is in charge of both transportation and communications, similar to what we had back home until the DICT was formed. Attached to the MOTC as well is the tourism bureau, unlike in the Philippines where it is a separate ministry.
Nonetheless, things work quite efficiently, and public services are quite effective in meeting the needs of the 23.5 million citizens plus the less than a million foreigners transiently residing here.