TAIPEI, TAIWAN - A PHL-TWN joint work-study program is getting rocked with allegations of human trafficking and illegal recruitment.
The Ministry of Education in Taiwan barred the Kao Yuan University in Kaohsiung from participating in the next academic year’s admission of international students from the Philippines. This is in light of a string of accusations that the students are selected through a Filipino recruitment agency charging hefty placement and processing fees. The students also complained of being subjected to grueling work conditions unrelated to their studies.
The work-for-study program of Kao Yuan University in Kaohsiung and the Philippine Christian University in Manila got embroiled in the controversy when the Filipino students complained through media about the alleged violations punctuated with over 40 hours work per week in factories.
According to Taiwan’s Employment Service Act, foreign students are only allowed a maximum of 20 hours of work per week.
Based on initial reports submitted to the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan, recruitment of these students was facilitated by JS Contractor Inc., a recruitment agency in the Philippines which allegedly charges exorbitant fees to participate in a study internship program in the Kaohsiung University.
The complaint is being investigated by the Ministry of Education, Bureau of Labor Affairs of the Kaohsiung City Government and the Immigration Department of the Ministry of Interior.
MECO Chairman and Resident Representative Wilfredo B. Fernandez also wrote to Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines and to Taiwan’s Ministry of Education for the immediate selective pause of the ‘work for study’ program until there are “sufficient safety nets “to prevent possible abuse and exploitation by unscrupulous parties”.
Recently, the Ministry of Education in Taiwan, through TECO, has provided MECO the following information in response to the complaint:
1. The Kao Yuan University has been barred from accepting international students for the next academic year due to its partnership with the Filipino recruitment agency, JS Contractor. Inc.
2. The Ministry has prohibited universities from using manpower and recruitment agencies to enroll students related to the program since May 2017.
3. Universities which wish to participate in the program must have at least 3 years of experience about the program and with no record of misconduct.
4. An online platform called NISA’s Inquiry Service for Overseas Students at Tertiary Colleges and Universities was launched in 2019 to allow international students to make complaints online or through a designated hotline.
While most have been implemented smoothly over the years, this is not the first time a work-study program for students from the Philippines was mired in controversy. In 2019, the Chinese Faith Culture and Education Development Association (FAITH) was in hot water with accusations from students in Yu Da University of Science and Technology (YDUST) in Miaoli. The students alleged that they were forced to work more than the legal maximum working hours to be able to pay tuition, dorm, and FAITH service fees.
The study internship program was conceived for international students to further their education in Taiwan and also apply for part-time jobs. Working while studying has the advantages of reducing financial stress, using work opportunities to practice conversing in Mandarin, establishing connections with Taiwanese people for a better understanding of their culture.
Under the New Southbound Policy, the Industry-Academia Collaboration Program offers up to 370 programs among 50 Taiwan universities.
Students who had their rights infringed by their educational institution may raise their concerns to the online platform for international students, www.nisa.moe.gov.tw or call their hotline at 0800-789-007.
An ongoing investigation with Taiwan authorities has yet to be concluded.