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Taiwan apologises for Minister’s remarks on Indian migrant workers


Taiwan’s government is scrambling to control the damage after its Labour Minister, Hsu Ming-chun, made controversial comments regarding the potential recruitment of migrant workers from India.

During an interview with Yahoo TV last week, Hsu said Taiwan may start recruiting migrant workers from India’s northeast region where people “have similar skin colour and diets like us”, reported CNN.

“Furthermore, most people in that region are Christians. Moreover, they are really good at sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, and construction,” Hsu said.

Hsu mentioned that under the India-Taiwan agreement, Taiwan has the flexibility to choose the number and region of origin of migrant workers from India.

She stated that initially, the numbers would be small and focused on the northeastern region of India.

Hsu talked about a recent deal between India and Taiwan to bring Indian workers to the island. Taiwan needs workers due to a shortage and an ageing population.

Her remarks received flak from people on social media who found them “racially and communally biased”.

IMMEDIATE BACKLASH AND APOLOGIES

Hsu’s remarks ignited immediate criticism by lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties in Taiwan.

On Monday, the Taiwan foreign ministry expressed its “sincere apologies”.

“Taiwan will welcome any Indian worker who meets conditions for recruitment and satisfies industry demand, regardless of their ethnic background,” the ministry said in a statement.

In a separate apology, the Labour Ministry stated that Hsu meant “absolutely no discriminatory connotation” when mentioning “similar skin colour”.

“Taiwan respects India’s diverse and rich culture and will use this as a basis in the future to promote labour cooperation between the two sides,” it added.

CONTEXT AND UNDERLYING ISSUES

Hsu’s comments come at a time when business relations between New Delhi and Taiwan are improving.

Taiwan’s Foxconn, a major Apple supplier, is increasing its presence in India due to supply issues in China during Covid lockdowns.

The controversy unfolds amid Taiwan’s efforts to address its critical labour shortage and rapidly ageing population.

Taiwan is keen to recruit workers from India to meet the growing demand for its manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and other industries.

Taiwan, like nearby countries China, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea, has a low birth rate. Because of this, many older people will make up over 20% of the population by 2025. In 2028, there will be fewer people of working age, between 15 and 64 years old, compared to the total population, according to a forecast by its economic planning agency.

In November 2023, Bloomberg reported that Taiwan might bring in up to 100,000 workers from India for jobs in factories, farms, and hospitals.

Currently, Taiwan allows migrant workers from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines, says the labour ministry.

Published By:

Girish Kumar Anshul

Published On:

Mar 5, 2024



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