TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A lawmaker joined two NGOs Monday (May 6) in accusing Kao Yuan University (KYU) in Kaohsiung of luring students from developing countries to do internship programs, only for many end up working hard factory jobs unrelated to their studies to stay in the country.
Two KYU seniors recruited from their alma mater, the Christian University of the Philippines, to participate in a work-study program described their experiences to Taiwan News on condition of anonymity.
The two students said they have worked at six factories in northern Kaohsiung and Tainan since arriving in Taiwan in the fall of 2018.
Their tasks involved packing, grinding, cleaning, and even welding, despite their lack of prior experience. They and other Southeast Asian workers had to clean the toilets after their shifts.
One of the students, surnamed Lily, said that when she was employed at a factory owned by the NES fastener maker, she was the only female machine operator in the production department. “Every day I needed to bend and press metals,” she said.
She added that she only receives one pair of gloves every two weeks. However, they would be in tatters after two days and she would wrap her hands in an effort to protect them.
It was dirty work and the factory was suffocating, Lily said. When she brought an electric fan to work, it was taken away; only Taiwanese employees were allowed to have fans, she and the other student said.
It was also dangerous. Lily remembers that one of her colleagues lost a finger in his machine. The risk was compounded by the quota of 2,000 pieces per hour. She said that from day one, she was expected to meet 60% of this quota, a feat she often had to work until midnight to accomplish; she said she was not paid for overtime.
Under pressure to work faster, Lily said that after she damaged two machines by inserting the metal parts incorrectly, the factory deducted the cost of the repairs from her salary.
When Lily lost her job during Taiwan’s first major COVID-19 outbreak last summer, her advisor gave her a failing grade for her internship, although she had no other options. job at the time. It was only last month, after the Ministry of Education began investigating the school, that it was given the option of replacing the internship with two classes, according to a ministry official.
The other Filipino student said dirt and metal dust from an old factory where he worked as a welder gave him eczema. Yet he continued to weld so he could pay his school fees. “We came here to study and get a degree, it looks like we are cows milked by them. They just care about our money,” he said.
These and other Southeast Asian students contacted by Taiwan News worked 40 hours a week, and often more, starting in their second year. They are then expected to attend classes at 8 a.m. the following day.
According to the Taiwan Employment Service Law, foreign students are only allowed to work a maximum of 20 working hours per week.
In an apparent effort to circumvent this problem, the school has labeled 20 of those hours “internship”, although the work does not change throughout the day. Taiwan News has obtained audio of a Taiwanese man, believed to be a school official, telling students how to explain this 20-20 split if contacted by Labor Ministry officials.
Another Filipina student provided Taiwan News with both her “real” payment receipt and a “fake” one she said KYU officials gave her. Another student provided Taiwan News with images of two separate debit cards, which they say were given to them by the school to maintain the appearance of legal hours and a six-credit “internship,” which factories grade in accordance with an agreement with the school. .
“It’s like a facade, like a cover-up,” one senior student said of the internship. He said Kao Yuan did not mention such an internship before leaving Manila for Taiwan and added that it is unusual for a student to do an internship before his senior year.
Kao Yuan Filipino students are recruited by JS Contractor Inc., a human resources company operating out of Manila and Cebu. The students said they were told they could stay in the dorms for free and pay for their education by working.
Nov. 12, 2018 Philippine Star Article on KYU, Kun Shan University Scholarships. (Screenshot from Taiwan News)
Lily, the male student, and other students were the first batch of students accepted into the program in the summer of 2018. However, it wasn’t until shortly before leaving to start the fall semester. at KYU they were told they had to pay around NT$63,000 in fees.
At that time, the couple said they had already committed to the trip. According to copies of Lily’s receipts, she paid the amount in monthly installments of NT$3,530 to Family Financial Management Consultant LTD., based in Zhongshan District, Taipei.
However, some students working in similar situations see their experience in Taiwan as an opportunity to get an education, an education they wouldn’t get back home. A Filipina senior who is graduating in computer science from another Taiwanese university said that although factory work is difficult, it is an opportunity she would not have had at home and that she plans to stay to pursue his mastery.
When asked about the situation, KYU President Jaw Bih-shiaw (趙必孝) wrote a letter questioning the legitimacy of the information provided by the students. Additionally, “when our companies became aware of (a student’s) statements, they completely denied the charges.”
Jaw claimed that “skewed reports” could rob Filipino students of a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to improve their prospects.
The letter was accompanied by statements from several students about the benefits of the apprenticeship program, with some pointing out that their eight-hour shifts include a four-hour legal part-time job and a four-hour internship. According to Taiwan News sources, the students were asked to write the statements after the KYU administration heard the article from this agency.
On Friday morning (May 6), Legislative Yuan Member Fan Yun (范雲), Taiwan Human Rights Association General Secretary Shi I-hsiang (施逸翔), and Taiwan Human Rights Association General Secretary Taiwan Labor Front Sun Yu-lien (孫友聯) held a press conference on the situation at KYU after a student contacted them. They discussed alleged illegal hours, falsified payslips, high student-teacher ratio and misleading advertising, among other issues.
“Ministries and associations should work together to do a good job of vetting and stop allowing Taiwan’s higher education policy to become a human rights black hole,” lawmakers Fan said on Friday. Shi and Sun in a joint press release.
The controversy around Kao Yuan echoes that of Chung Chou University, which made headlines earlier this year for forcing Ugandan students to work long hours in factories as “trainees”. Similar incidents in recent years include Eswatini student laborers from MingDao University and Sri Lankan students from Kang Ning University employed in slaughterhouses in 2018.
A growing number of Taiwanese universities are facing enrollment shortages as the country’s birth rate continues to fall and foreign students are a way to bolster student numbers.
TAHR chief Shi I-hsian, legislator Fan Yun and TLFA general secretary Sun Yu-lien. (Photo by Taiwan News)
An alleged false pay slip. (Student photo)