This paper mainly discussed and analyzed the employment policy for Indigenous Peoples in Taiwan

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This paper mainly discussed and analyzed the employment policy for Indigenous Peoples in Taiwan. The focus of this paper is to probe into the content of “Indigenous Peoples Employment Rights Protection Act” and the mechanism for promoting employment in Indigenous Peoples, analyzing their effects on closing the gap between Indigenous Peoples and general population, and to make a further discussion into this topic.

Indigenous Peoples, which consisted of 2 percent of the population in Taiwan, are the minorities in this island. Faced with the dramatic socioeconomic and political structure transformation, they are forced to withdraw from self- relied tribunal economy to capitalism labor market. Due to insufficient human capital and difference in culture, their competitiveness is weak and fall into jobless and insecurity, widening their living gap with general population in Taiwan.

The writer has fully participated in the formation process of “Indigenous Peoples Employment Rights Protection Act”. Based on her experiences and observation, she applied the “Indigenous Peoples Employment Determination Model” and the theories related to ethnical labor process—social justice theory, social exclusion perspective, and racism theory— to gauge this issue, examining the theoretical foundation of this policy.

After the passage of ”Indigenous Peoples Employment Rights Protection Act”, the gap between Indigenous Peoples and general population in labor market has narrowed from 3 to 1.5 times, demonstrating an initial success in promoting employment in Indigenous Peoples and closing the rift. However, the writer believed that the job opportunities offered by short-termed Public Service Expansion Program can not last over a long period. A lasting and stable job is what Indigenous Peoples waiting for. Therefore, the writer has proposed to make further investment in education, upgrading Indigenous Peoples’ human capital, and to develop cultural industry in Native Home as better strategies

Finally, the writer assumed that the works in closing the gap and protecting Indigenous Peoples’ work right are the best strategies to achieve the goals for ethnic harmony and social inclusion.

Keywords: Indigenous Peoples, Employment Policy, Taiwan

Closing the Gap in Labor MarketThe Employment Policy for Indigenous Peoples in Taiwan

Ju-Na Chiu ( Taiwan )

June, 2005
I. IntroductionIndigenous Peoples: a disadvantaged group in Taiwan labor market
As Pierson notes, “ethnical background is a powerful factor for social exclusion” (Pierson, 2002), minority ethnic communities are more likely to face disadvantaged situation than ordinary peoples in every societies. Taiwan is just another example. Taiwan government has recognized 12 tribes of Indigenous Peoples, mainly distributed in the east coast and southern, central and northern mountain area of the island and amounted to 2% (457,604) of the population (22,708,280), as minorities. Their conditions are much worse than ordinary people are in many facets based on the statistic data, including lifetime, job stability, income, health, education, especially in unemployment rate, which is 1.5-3 times to others (as shown in Table 1) and makes their employment status a crucial issue. From the standpoint of Taiwan’s national value1—“the State affirms cultural pluralism”, “the right to work shall be guaranteed to the people” and “the State shall provide suitable opportunities for work to people who are able to work”—the gap in unemployment rate between Indigenous peoples and general population becomes a threat to racial equality, and ranks high in administration’s priority as a result.

In modern society, a job not only becomes the main source for a person’s living, but also an influential factor in determining his identity and social status. Just as sociologist Peter Blau and Otis D. Duncan put it, an individual’s social position did inherit from ascribed status in market-oriented society; however, achieved status played an even essential role in establishing one’s place, especially his occupational achievement (derived from Liu, 2004). Occupation is the major route for modern people to derive prestige; it affects not only in lifestyles but in social network. In European Union countries, whether trap in poverty is a phenomenon of social exclusion or not is also a hot issue in last decade. Job insecurity, unemployment, and long-termed jobless are sorts of exclusion in labor market, and also the main reasons for poverty trap and social isolation (Silver, 1994; Gore, 1995; Percy-Smith, 2000; Littlewood & Herkommer, 1999). Indigenous Peoples in Taiwan faced with unfavorable employment situation, and consequently forced them into the corner of poverty, family dysfunction, limits for their child in receiving education, and the vicious cycle for their second generation. Therefore, unemployment is regarded as an important misery index for gauging Indigenous people’s life. And, how to promote their employment, “Closing the gap between Indigenous Peoples and general population”, becomes the direction and goal in formulating Taiwan’s aboriginal policy for 21 century2. The writer3 served in the Council of Indigenous Peoples4 (namely APC) before and was in charged of the social welfare and employment promotion affairs, fully participating in the formulation and execution process of aboriginal employment policy. With her insight, this paper can provide an excellent analysis on Taiwan’s employment policy for aboriginal population, discussing the strategies on how to shorten the gap between Indigenous Peoples and general population in labor market, and exchange experiences with all the delegates from every country.

Table 1 Comparison in Employment Status between Indigenous Peoples and General Population in Taiwan

Indigenous Peoples

General Population

Unemployment Rate

Indigenous Peoples / General Population Ratio (times)

Labor Force (Unit: person)

Labor Participation Rate

Unemployment Rate

Labor Force (Unit: 10 thousands person)

Labor Participation Rate

Unemployment Rate









































1. Notes: The figures in labor force and participation rate for aboriginal population contained military serviceman; however, both figures for the whole Taiwan area did not take serviceman into consideration.

2. Source: Survey of Employment Status in Indigenous Peoples. (1999), (2001 1st half), (2002), (2003), (2004): Council of Indigenous Peoples, Executive Yuan

II. Analysis on the Labor Participation and Employment Difficulties for Indigenous Peoples in Taiwan
To deal with an ethnical issue must look back to its cultural context and historical consequences (Sun, 2000). Therefore, we have first to find the way for Indigenous Peoples to enter labor market with relation to their employment status, and then identify the problem. We will elaborate this part from three perspectives:
1. The development of labor participation in Indigenous Peoples
The types of labor participation in Indigenous Peoples are deeply affected by Taiwan’s political and economic development. Elites of the tribes believed the reasons Indigenous Peoples reside at the bottom of this society are the outcomes of shock from: (1) outside economy, especially the capitalism economic behaviors; (2) colonized ruling; (3) strong culture from outside society (Kao, 2001). The development of the type of Indigenous Peoples’ labor participation can roughly divide into five phases:

(1) Tradition: Subsistent Economy and Labor Cooperation Mechanism

The major traditional production activity of Indigenous Peoples in Taiwan lies in slash-and-burn, and the minor is hunting and collecting (Chou, Hsien-Wen, 1954: 230-237). The production is just to meet its need for subsistence, so they would not produce more than that extent (Liao, Wen-Shan, 1984: 30). The labor process in the Indigenous Peoples is mainly a mutual benefit one, that is labor cooperation mechanism, and is kind of Subsistent economy as a whole. This kind of economy lasted to 1960s, till the invasion of market economy (Liao, Wen-Shan, 1984: 91-92).

(2) Forced labor under national institution

Japan had colonized Taiwan for 50 years until the end of World War II. At 1945, this island was returned to Republic of China. The labor status of Indigenous Peoples in colonization period could be seen in the “Survey on Aboriginal Ethnics”(1938), a report done by the Office of Taiwan Governor. We can find there was around 10% of population act as forced labor. This could be the pioneer of the Indigenous Peoples entered into market economy.

(3) Wage labor and commoditization of labor under capitalism

Taiwan government had set its policy theme for Indigenous Peoples as “Modernization the Mountain Area”. On one side, they persevered the mountain area; on the other, they actively promoted “Three Major Activities in Mountain Area”(1951), attempting to turn this primary society into “modernization” and “plain society”. These movements not only affected the traditional value of aboriginal society (including habits and concept), but also in the form of land privatization, wage labor, labor force outflow and labor commodification (Liao, Wen-Shan, 1984; Chiu, Hei-Yuan, 1983; Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica,1983).

Sociologist also pointed out (Chou, 1983: 159), the mountain area had faced with a dramatic change, caused by the invasion of market economy, in socioeconomic status over 1960s. That is to say, the labor of Indigenous Peoples had enter the capitalism market and act as “commodity”.

(4) The formation of Urban Indigenous Peoples” and its characteristics

In 1970s, the population of Indigenous Peoples had greatly outflow to the labor market. This was mainly induced by two forces: The socioeconomic in Taiwan developed rapidly and the large quantity of opportunities “pull” the aborigines out of their hometown; the widening gap between the Mountain and Plain area had “push” these people out of their Home. Indigenous Peoples usually accept low-paid and manual labor, like machine operator and driver, when they come to urban area. The features of this type of work are short-termed contract, lack of protection and security, and unwilling to be taken by peoples resided at plain. They are so-called jobs in a “Secondary Labor Market” (Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, 1983: 112).

For those Indigenous Peoples who earned a living in urban area, they may return to their hometown collectively in tribute festival seasons and pose a big problem to the employers in the city. Therefore, the employers would do whatever they can to recruit guest work after the limit of importation was lift, and cause massive unemployment problem among Indigenous Peoples (Tsai, 2001).

(5) The importation of foreign worker and the home-returning of Indigenous Peoples

The government has lifted its limit on the importation of foreign worker for speeding the progress of public construction. In 1990s, the government continued its opening pace with an eye on the vacancy situation in domestic industries. Under the pressure of the massive importation of foreign labor, the room for the Indigenous Peoples is so narrow that forced them to return their Native Home. However, the chances for these returnees are even slim due to the effects of entering WTO and the land reservation policy.

2. Current Employment Status for Indigenous Peoples
The outcomes of the survey on Indigenous Peoples’ employment status do not show much difference in recent years; however, there is a sharp contrast when comparing with ordinary people. Their employment status is as below based on the latest Survey on Indigenous Peoples’ Employment Status (May 2004):
(1) Labor Force
a. The number of Indigenous Peoples’ population over 15 years old is 333,303, consisting of 218,113 in labor force. The labor participation rate for them is 65.4% (including military serviceman, 63.9% for not included), higher than the average rate, 57.6%, for Taiwan area in the same period (military serviceman excluded).

b. As for their sex, the labor participation rate for male is higher than female (75:54), and both of them are higher than general population. As for their age, the rate in the group of 25 to 44 years old, 82%, is the highest. With regard to education level, Indigenous Peoples graduated from junior high school have the highest labor participation rate, 76%, among others; however, the participation rate for Indigenous Peoples graduated from college, university or above is lower than general population.

c. The main occupations chosen by Indigenous Peoples lie in social, personal service industry and Agriculture, Forestry, Fishery and Husbandry, 21% and 18% respectively; Manufacturing, 15%, Public Administration and Construction, 13%, are the next. Comparing with general population, the ratio for Indigenous Peoples serving in Agriculture, Forestry, Fishery and Husbandry and Construction industries is apparently higher, however, the ratio is lower in Manufacturing and Business industries.

d. The ratio of Indigenous Peoples employed by government (20%) is apparently higher than general population (10%).

e. The per person’s monthly income for Indigenous Peoples is 16,000 dollars, and the average monthly income for ordinary peoples is 25,000 dollars, 1.4 times to Indigenous Peoples.
(2) Unemployment
a. Both the number of unemployed persons, 12,536, and the unemployment rate, 5.76%, for Taiwan Indigenous Peoples in May 2004 were down from the same period in 2003 (9.64%), however, their unemployment rate was still higher than the average rate in Taiwan area (4.44%)5.

b. Personal characteristics of unemployed were as below: (1) Both of the male and female Indigenous Peoples had higher unemployment rate than the rate of general population, and the rate in female aboriginals was obviously higher than the rate of male; (2) With regard to age, the rates for Indigenous Peoples in all age groups were higher than general population except for that was in the group of 20-29 years old; (3) As for education level, the rates for Indigenous Peoples in all education levels were higher than general population except for that was in the level of college and university.

c. With respect to geographic distribution, Indigenous Peoples resided at the southern and eastern of this island had higher unemployment rate than those were in the central and northern area; among them, Indigenous Peoples resided at mountain area had lower rate than those were in urban area.

d. Among the jobless Indigenous Peoples, 48% of them wished to work at “Native Home”, 17.7% at “The township near the Native Home”, and just 14.3% of them wished to work at urban area.

From the labor participation status and characteristics stated above, we can conclude with the following features:

a. The outflow of population from the Native Home: the data shown that less than half of the Indigenous Peoples resided in their Native Home; most of them immigrated to the nearby plain or urban area. This trend was especially keen in female aborigines and made the sex ratio in Native Home area extremely high as a result.

b. The condition of the human capital in Indigenous Peoples was weaker than the general population.

c. The major productive activities for Indigenous Peoples lay in agricultural and forestry industries, which provided with low wages and socioeconomic status jobs. Though youth aborigines may have better opportunities, they mainly served in the sector of “secondary labor market”.

d. The job opportunities were limited in the Native Home, and forced the Indigenous Peoples to take the low-paid, even unpaid agriculture and forestry jobs, or to leave their home for searching better chances; however, what waiting for them were always insecure jobs like production of manual labor.
3. Analysis on the Employment Problems for the Indigenous Peoples
Academic in Taiwan had developed a series of studies into the unemployment problems for Indigenous Peoples (Hsieh Kao-chiaoh and Chen, Hsin-mu, 1997; Wei, Michael M, 1998; Cheng-Chun Lu, 1997; Ju-Na Chiu, 2003), and had concluded with the following reasons:
(1) The work type of Indigenous Peoples was so rigid that can not keep up with the changes, caused by the structure transformation of economy and industry.

(2) The Foreign worker importation policy had deprived the job opportunities for Indigenous Peoples.

(3) The condition of human capital for Indigenous Peoples was so unfavorable that lack of the competitiveness in job market.

(4) Job information was inaccessible to Indigenous Peoples due to their underusage in government employment resources and facilities.

(5) Social discrimination and exclusion resulted from the stereotypes like alcoholic and bungling.

(6) Lack of job opportunities in the Tribes; easily fell into unemployment when returning home.

(7) Collective action made them hard to conduct employment counseling.
III. Related Theories and Viewpoints in Racial Labor Participation
With regard to the theories and viewpoints in racial labor participation, Wei Ming, a Taiwan scholar, has constructed a model named “Indigenous Peoples Employment Determination Model” to deal with employment issues. Beyond this, we will propose three viewpoints from academic that is social justice, social exclusion and racism for further discussion:
1. Indigenous Peoples Employment Determination Model
Wei Ming (1998) has studied into the employment security service system for Taiwan Indigenous Peoples and proposed “Indigenous Peoples Employment Determination Model”. He believed the employment status of Indigenous Peoples was affected by two factors:

(1) Characteristics of Indigenous Peoples:

a. Human Capital: Skills, Knowledge, Education.

b. Cultural Capital: Cultural values and recognition with relation to work.

c. Social Capital: Resources like social network for job-searching.

(2) Structural Factors in Labor Market:

a. Attitudes and Strategies for Employers

b. Employment Polices and Legislation for Government

c. Economic Prosperity and Structure

d. Characteristics of Job Market
Like Graph 1.

Structural Factors in Labor Market

- Attitudes and Strategies for Employers

- Employment Polices and Legislation for Government

- Economic Prosperity and Structure

- Characteristics of Job Market

Characteristics of Indigenous Peoples

- Human Capital

- Cultural Capital

-Social Capita

Employment Status for Indigenous Peoples

Graph 1 Indigenous Peoples Employment Determination Model

From the Indigenous Peoples Employment Determination Model, Aborigines have their unique “Human Capital”, “Cultural Capital” and “Social Capital”. All three of them influenced their employment situation. According to the Dictionary of Social Policy (Alcock, Erskine & May,2002), the definition of “Human Capital” refers to the idea that future income or value added through personal training or education. “Cultural Capital” is a forms of knowledge, skill, education and any advantages a person has which give them a higher status in society, including high expectations. The reason that working class or oppressed group can not survive in society is not the fault with its cultural features, but the facts that mainstream class keep passing down tits culture to other, and devaluating other’s cultural capital. As for “Social Capital”, it refers to the collective value of all 'social networks' and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other. Professional specialized in social capital theory believes that these social networks place a significant role in enhancing mutual trusts, benefit and social welfare.
2. Social Justice Argument

Social justice argument usually serves as the basic platform for discussing the equality issue among ethnic groups, and is the ultimate goal for social policy. The first scholar to develop this theory is John Rawls, and the book, ”A Theory of Justice”, points out the two fundamental rules of justice (John Rawls, 1971):

(1) Principle of justice: Each person is to have equal right.

(2) Principle of differential: Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged differentially so that they are to the advantage of everyone.

Therefore, the term, social justice, is referred to whether an existing social arrangement is right or fair, especially the allocation of resources and opportunities in the social networks. The pursuit of social justice is based on three rules of justice: rights, deserved and need. As for “rights”, social justice has expanded its meaning to ”social right”, not only for a person’s legal and political rights, but for his rights on social welfare, healthcare and education. The foundation of this concept lies in equal worth to all civilians; and the term, “equal worth”, can enlarge its meaning to a universal resources allocation process, or a fair opportunity distribution mechanism. In recent years, the development of the theme of social policy has switched from universal rights to conditioned rights, and made it closer to the meaning of social justice. Further, there are two types with respect to the term “deserved”: the first is the reward gained from one’s performance; the other is the compensation granted on the basis of disadvantages, like the social exclusion due to handicaps or minorities. Finally, as for the term “need”, the concept of social justice lies in resources redistribution based on social needs, and forms two major criteria as a result: universality and selectiveness. People supported universality believe that the basic needs for everyone should be met without condition, and the ones who proclaimed selectiveness assume that the welfare resources should be delivered to person with special needs (Alcock, Erskine & May,2002).

From the viewpoint of social justice, we can deploy its ideal on the Indigenous Peoples’ employment issue and conclude with the following rule: In the resources allocation, we would better accept deferential strategy, that is to weight the resources and opportunities to the disadvantaged, compensating their deserved needs and granting them with equal rights.

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