By Tsai Tsung-hsun and Jake Chung / Staff reporter, with staff writer
Tue, Feb 17, 2015 - Page 3
Many migrant workers have said that they prefer the Taiwanese style of celebrating the Lunar New Year holidays: days off, receiving hong bao (紅包, red envelopes filled with money) and a handsome feast.
Statistics released by the Ministry of the Interior this month showed there were 552,000 foreign workers in Taiwan as of the end of last year.
Migrant workers account for almost 70 percent of the 800,000 foreign nationals — excluding Chinese — living in Taiwan. They are currently restricted to employment as industrial laborers, domestic caretakers and maritime workers.
The report shows that 41.6 percent are from Indonesia, 27.3 percent from Vietnam and 20.2 percent from the Philippines.
Several factory owners said they have arranged for trips for their migrant workers during the Lunar New Year holidays.
Some employers said they would pay for all expenses for a two-to-three-day trip, or take their workers out for a day trip and a big meal; but some employees opt to spend the holidays with friends from their own countries, usually spending time in KTVs or going out to theme parks.
According to one Thai worker nicknamed A-tung (阿東), the owner of his factory usually treats all his foreign laborers to a sumptuous Lunar New Year’s Eve meal featuring Thai food and hands out good-sized hong bao.
“Lunar New Year has become my favorite holiday aside from [Thai New Year’s Day] Songkran Festival,” A-tung said.
Many who work as family caretakers said they might not get a vacation during the holiday, but some said their employers would let them take one or two days off because so many family members visit over the Lunar New Year.
An employment brokerage staffer nicknamed A-fen (阿芬) said she would usually negotiate with families hiring foreigners to work as domestic caretakers to give them Lunar New Year’s Day and the next day off, and most of her clients are amenable.
A-fen added that she would also arrange for the transportation and get-together for meals for the foreign laborers, saying that sometimes the clients also chipped in to help pay for the meals.
A-chin (阿金), an Indonesian caretaker who has been in Taiwan for more than seven years, said her employer has a large family, although she is usually left alone with her employer’s father, who suffers from mild dementia, and mother, who has mobility problems. However, during the Lunar New Year holidays, the house is filled with more than 10 people and she enjoys the festive atmosphere very much, she said.
“As I also take very good care of both my employer’s father and mother, my employer is very nice to me,” she said, adding that not only does she not have to cook the family meal on Lunar New Year’s eve, she does not have to wash the dishes afterwards.
She said she receives several hong bao every year from her employer, including one year when she received 12.
“Some of my happiest times have been the Lunar New Year’s holidays that I have spent in Taiwan,” she said.