Philippines Taiwan

Philippines - Taiwan: Implementation and enforcement

Numerous ministries and departments of the Philippines government cooperate closely, both at home and abroad, with the aim of protecting workers’ fundamental rights in the recruitment process. Despite overlapping mandates and instances of turfing, processes and mandates are generally clear. The labour inspectorate is not notably understaffed and steps have been taken to improve its training in recent years, but its scrutiny of the country’s recruitment sector is too limited in scope, notably in relation to the failure to interview prospective or returning migrant workers on issues such as fee payments. The Philippines has taken a more robust approach to the criminal prosecution of illegal recruitment, and has had some success in limiting the number of unlicensed sub-agents who operate. Its focus on issues such as unlicensed agents and fake job orders has enhanced protection, although these forms of illegal recruitment still go on. However, the authorities have devoted less attention to the legal prohibition on other forms of illegal recruitment, and consequently the serious and widespread problem of workers being charged fees above the legal maximum remains largely unaddressed. This does not appear to be an issue of resourcing or training. There is scant information on the pervasiveness of corruption in the recruitment sector but high profile cases occur quite regularly and experts agree that it is a serious problem that has a negative impact on migrant worker outcomes.

The vast majority of Taiwan’s migrant workers are subject to the oversight of a relatively well resourced labour inspectorate working under the Ministry of Labour. Workers in its Distant Water Fishing sector are overseen by inspectors from the Fisheries Agency for whom the geographical spread of the Taiwanese-flagged fleet poses a more obvious challenge than resourcing. Criticism of Taiwan’s inspection and enforcement regime focuses on its passivity, and industry and government experts have acknowledged that the initiatives of the private sector in the electronics sector can be more effective in raising standards and eliminating unethical recruitment and working practices than the authorities’ inspections. Taiwan has begun to make use of its anti-trafficking law to prosecute serious abuses in the distant water fishing sector but prosecutions and convictions are rare. Data from the Ministry of Labour and the Fisheries Agency shows a clear preference for the imposition of administrative sanctions over criminal sanctions despite persistent evidence of serious violations of Taiwan’s laws protecting migrant workers and lends credence to criticism that the justice system often does not treat complaints about employers and recruitment agents with the seriousness that they warrant. Corruption is rarely mentioned as an issue, but all experts acknowledge that the recruitment sector has significant power and influence.

Recommendations to the Philippines government:

  • Shelve plans to institute a Department of Filipinos Overseas (DFO) and focus on enhancing existing agencies’ coordination and cooperation capacity.
  • 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.

Recommendations to the Government of Taiwan:

  • 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.