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Taiwan opens up on hiring migrant construction workers as MOL eases restrictions

The government is revising regulations to remove one of the main thresholds for contractors of public construction projects to hire migrant workers, with the new rules likely to come into effect in early April, according to the Ministry of Labor (MOL).

Under the MOL's existing regulations, contracted firms engaged in public works must meet three requirements to employ migrant workers — the total construction project cost must reach NT$10 billion (US$330.93 million); any separate contracts must amount to NT$1 billion; and the construction period must be 1.4 years or longer.

However, after a Taiwan engineering contractors association complained to the government that the strict restrictions have caused a serious labor shortage in the construction sector, the MOL agreed to remove the NT$10 billion threshold.

Once the restrictions are relaxed, an additional 1,382 migrant workers are expected to be able to enter the public construction sector, according to the Public Construction Commission.

According to the contractors association, some of its members complained that a labor shortage presents challenges for them because many public projects contracted out have been less than NT$10 billion in recent years, leaving many firms unable to apply to hire migrant workers.

Official statistics show that the annual number of migrant workers brought into the construction sector from 2001-2006 breached 10,000, with the number hitting a record high of 33,300 in 2011. 

However, since 2007, the average number of applications for hiring migrant workers in the sector has been below 10,000, with only 4,100 and 4,400 recorded in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

According to the MOL, between 2001 and 2011, many major public construction projects were launched, leading to the introduction of a large number of migrant workers. In the past few years, although an increasing number of public projects have been launched, they have been small-scale, causing a decline in the applications for hiring migrant workers, the ministry added. (By Pan Yi-ching and Evelyn Kao/CNA)

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