In November, I travelled to the Republic of China (Taiwan) as part of a delegation of 9 state Labor Commissioners and one federal labor official as invited guests of the Taipei Economic Cultural and Representative Office and the Ministry of Labor. Taiwan is a member of NAGLO (National Association of Government Labor Officials) of which Utah is a member.
The trip was impressive in many respects, especially the hospitality shown by the people of Taiwan. Our visit included meeting with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor Unions in Taipei, the Kinmen Employment Center, Workforce Development Agency, Labor Unions in Kinmen, National Health Insurance Administration, Bureau of Labor Insurance, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Workforce Development Agency, and the Institute of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health, and included participation in a Taiwan-US Labor Commissioners symposium.
Many regulatory issues facing those of us in the United States are very similar to those faced in Taiwan, including misclassification of employees, balancing issues of an aging workforce with a new generation of workers, and surprisingly, immigration issues. A great deal of value is placed on education, including receiving an education overseas. Particularly in the area of economic development, most of the Taiwanese representatives had received advanced degrees in the US and Europe, but the country’s focus on education has also created a shortage of skilled workers in the trades.
Our visits with the agencies made it very clear that Taiwan is very deliberate in their approach to developing labor policy. A great deal of effort is given to researching ‘best practices’ in implementing labor laws and processes, including taking time to visit other countries. The US and Europe are frequent models but there is a very deliberate effort to adopt and modify labor policy in a manner that fits Taiwan’s system, culture, customs, and overall goals. Their programs include workers compensation, unemployment benefits, universal health care coverage, governmental pension (like social security) as well as an employee-based pension, benefits for employees when a company closes and is unable to pay wages, a robust occupational safety and health program and equal opportunity laws.
We also toured their occupational safety and health research institute viewing some of their research facilities for fall protection, reviewing types of harnesses and falls from scaffolding, ergonomics, and we were also introduced to their ventilated hard hat model. My visit to Taiwan was truly an eye opening, once in a lifetime experience. I encourage anyone who has an opportunity to visit and experience the beauty and uniqueness of Taiwan.