Migration corridor

Philippines Taiwan

The archipelago of the Philippines and the island state of Taiwan both straddle the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, and there is a steady flow of migration from the Philippines to its wealthier neighbour to the north. Taiwan’s use of foreign labour to address labor shortages and the societal impact of an ageing and increasingly prosperous population began in the late 1980s and more than 700,000 workers from Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam are currently employed there, out of a Taiwanese labor force of 12 million. The Philippines accounts for 150,000 of Taiwan’s foreign workforce.

Philippines Taiwan migration corridor

The numbers

  • Metric philippines taiwan 01 Philippine nationals registered as working overseas in 2019 2.2 million
  • Metric philippines taiwan 02 Cash remittances sent back to the Philippines in 2019 $30.1 billion
  • Metric philippines taiwan 03 Proportion of Taiwan’s migrant workers working in manufacturing or caregiving 97 percent

The vast majority work either in manufacturing, which accounts for approximately 60 percent of its foreign workforce, and domestic work and caregiving, which collectively account for 36 percent. In addition, some 20,000 foreign workers are employed in Taiwan’s distant water fishing sector. These workers do not live or work in Taiwan (and have no permission to do so) but rather on Taiwanese-registered ships that operate in international waters.

Mass migration from the Philippines began in earnest in the 1970s when it positioned itself as one of the primary suppliers of labour to the oil-rich Arab Gulf states. In 2019 it had an overseas foreign workforce of 2.2 million, with more than half of its workers employed in the Middle East. The money that Filipino workers send home in remittances ($30.1 billion in 2019) accounts for 9 percent of the country’s GDP.

In the same way as the Philippines economy is heavily reliant on remittances from its emigrants, so Taiwan’s high-income economy relies on immigrants to support its vital manufacturing sector, including its resource-intensive electronics sector.

C4cover Getty Images 675381928
Migrant workers calling for reforms to Taiwan’s recruitment and employment system, Taipei 2017. © NurPhoto / Getty Images

Priority recommendations to strengthen efforts to ensure fair recruitment.

The Philippine authorities should:

  • Ratify the ILO Private Employment Convention and in keeping with its requirement that workers should not pay recruitment fees, amend the Republic Act 10022 to bring Philippine law in line with the ‘employer pays’ principle and in such a way that it is consistent with the ILO’s definition of recruitment fees and related costs.
  • Institute an ethical recruitment framework into the licensing and regulatory machinery of the Department of Labor and the POEA, such that prospective or existing recruitment agencies need to demonstrate compliance with ethical recruitment principles, and for this compliance to be verified and audited by an independent third-party; consider the introduction of incentives for agencies who can genuinely demonstrate due diligence, commitment to zero-fee recruitment and a duty of care for migrant workers.
  • Set up an inspectorate or task force, similar to the Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment, that is independent of the Department of Labour and Employment. The inspectorate should have a mandate to accept and investigate complaints and to proactively inspect licensed recruitment agents for all forms of illegal recruitment as outlined in Section 5 of the Republic Act 10022.
  • Conduct an independent policy review of the Single Entry Approach to assess the effectiveness of mediation and conciliation in providing overseas foreign workers with their right to effective remedy. This review should specifically address the question of whether mediation is, in practice, an obstacle to effective remedy.

The Taiwanese authorities should:

  • Amend legislation to ensure that all foreign workers in Taiwan, including domestic workers, enjoy the protection of the Labour Standards Act.
  • Bring the Distant Water Fishing sector under the regulatory authority of the Ministry of Labour and ensure that all workers in that sector enjoy fundamental rights and protections comparable to foreign workers employed in other sectors in Taiwan.
  • Institute an ethical recruitment framework into licensing and regulatory machinery such that prospective or existing recruitment agencies need to demonstrate compliance with ethical recruitment principles, and for this compliance to be verified and audited by an independent third-party; consider the introduction of incentives for agencies who can genuinely demonstrate due diligence, commitment to zero-fee recruitment and a duty of care for migrant workers.
  • Set up an inspectorate or task force dedicated to the protection of foreign workers that has a mandate to accept and investigate complaints and to conduct random inspections in the sectors in which foreign workers are employed (including the distant water fishing sector), as well as to inspect private employment institutions that recruit foreign workers. Civil society groups and other expert stakeholders should be consulted on the precise mandate of any such inspectorate, which should at a minimum address issues such as recruitment fee payment and contractual issues.
  • Amend the Employment Service Act and introduce language to the Regulations on the Authorization and Management of Overseas Employment of Foreign Crew Members to make employers liable for all costs associated with hiring private employment institutions to recruit workers, and to explicitly prohibit the charging of monthly service fees to migrant workers.
Policy summaries of Philippines - Taiwan