The world of the storybook is filled with incredible unimaginable characters and stories. The migrant workers’ storybook in front of you is no different.
As an “employer” who had benefited from the service of a migrant worker to take care of my aging in-laws for the past 4 years, I thought I knew the world of migrant workers well. Yet in the process of reading the broker stories of migrant workers, I was so surprised by the incredible accounts in the storybook that I was compelled to pause and relay the stories to other family members time and again.
As employers, Taiwanese are concerned about whether the migrant speaks Chinese, whether she knows how to care for the elderly, whether she can do housework, whether she will arrive in time, whether she is trustworthy or not, etc.
Rarely do the employers think: How are the migrant workers removed from their remote countryside homes somewhere in South East Asia and relocated in their employers’ homes in Taiwan? What kind of molding and training have they suffered, what kind of broker costs and loans are they forced to take up, what kind of isolated desolate conditions are they put into–so that they are thoroughly enslaved to accept all the work and duties that the employers themselves despise to perform?
This storybook tells about the personal experiences of how certain populations in South East Asia were transformed into international migrants by the broker system. It also reveals the unmentioned backside of the services provided by migrant workers and enjoyed by their Taiwanese employers.
In the stories, the huge economic difference between the employer nation and the labor-exporting nation produces a one-sided attraction through successful cases and wonderful legends. Because of the dramatic change in the employer nation’s social and population structure, a vast shortage and hence demand for lower-level labor is created. As migrant cases accumulate, brokers (in many cases, legal traffickers) and their so-called “services” (in many cases, legitimate exploitation) came into existence, building up conduits for labor transportation that involves multiple layers of exploitation and huge profits. The two governments, on the other hand, choose to perform the most passive “customer complaint” service—only when complaints are successfully filed would they emerge to help with the cases.
The present condition of and problems with the broker system reflect developments that emerged with years of expedient coping. As it stands now, the broker system would provide some professional training and even language training to avoid accusations of trafficking, but the training courses also create more reasons for extra fees and charges. The complexities and ambiguities of the broker system on the other had left most migrants in a position of vulnerability due to their lack of access to necessary information and their low stakes in negotiation.
It’s hard to imagine that more than 700,000 migrants that now work in Taiwan arrived through this kind of haphazard private broker system, where various structural differences in ethnic, cultural, class, and nation status dimensions make measures that promote humanitarianism and human rights in migrant issues a luxury, as described in the book.
Free flow of population across national borders may be an ideal to be realized only in the distant future, but the atrocities and hardships faced by migrant workers could be and must be amended by well-thought systems and arrangements. This book points to a clear path toward that goal, and the continued efforts of the migrant movement will see to it that the path becomes a thoroughfare for all migrants.