Migrant workers in Hong Kong demand equality in wages and workers’ rights
Asia should prepare for a dramatic change in international migration trends due to the worsening debt crisis in Europe, according to the Secretary-General of the Geneva-based International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC). There is already a reverse trend of migration from Europe to Latin America, Johan Ketelers said, adding that he predicts high-tech talent may also look for job opportunities in developing Asian countries such as China and India. The remarks came at the third meeting of the Asia Working Group formed by the Office for Human Development of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences and the ICMC, which concluded today in Hsinchu. This is a good time to absorb unemployed talents who are moving out from Europe to other continents, Ketelers told ucanews.com. However, the issue may be more complicated than simply offering jobs. Growing numbers of migrant workers and immigrants in Taiwan are bringing complex socio-pastoral issues, said Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan of Taipei
, president of Taiwan’s bishops’ conference. The issues include human trafficking, employment and alienation, religious freedom, divorce and children’s education, he said. There are approximately 420,000 migrant workers and 500,000 foreign brides on the island, accounting for 3.8 percent of the total population. In the meeting’s summary report, participants shared the concern that the Church’s position in favor of migrants may fuel animosity by being interpreted as anti-national or as proselytizing. They were also aware of many legal and procedural restrictions limiting migrant workers’ access to basic facilities in healthcare, education, social security, housing, employment and even fulfilling their religious duties. India imposes many restrictions on foreigners to protect the local workforce. Since Taiwan does not have laws to protect migrant workers, many Filipino domestic helpers hardly get a day off, even on Sundays, said Australian Father Peter O’Neill of Hsinchu
diocese’s Migrant Concern Desk. In China, European workers may have less opportunity than in previous years, as Chinese students who studied abroad return home to work, due to difficulties getting a job where they had schooling, Ketelers said. Bishops, priests, and laypeople from India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam attended the four-day meeting.