Council of Labor Affairs in Taiwan is Piloting A Programme That Will Provide The Elderly Accessibility To Foreign Caregivers on An Hourly Basis

Taiwan, like other places in Asia, is experiencing rapid ageing. According to some estimates, by 2025, the population of those over 65 years-of-age will be 20 percent, up from 8 percent in 2008. With a population just over 25 million, this represents a huge increase in a relatively short period of time–a problem further exacerbated with population trends such as increased women in the work-place, increased people living alone –being separated from the elderly, and decreased fertility.

Adequate manpower continues to represent a challenge, in part due to Taiwan’s strict laws on foreign immigration and caregiving but also due to the aforementioned trends, such as low fertility rates. Taiwan typically provides good care to veterans and old people, but little community support is available. Little government support is also provided to those who wish to age at home.

Despite this, most elderly Taiwanese prefer to age at home and, many of them, prefer to stay at home rather than go out and partake in community services. Given this fact, recently, Taiwan is undertaking a series of building projects aimed at building age-friendly environment to keep elderly energetic and age successfully at home.

However the issue still remains–with informal caregiving structures on the decline from more women participating in the work force and more elderly ageing at home, who will be able to care for the elderly as they choose to age at home?

Starting 2013, the Council of Labor Affairs will test out a pilot programme that will allow foreign workers to work part-time by the hour.

Citizens over the age of 80 who score 60 or less on the Bartel Index will be eligible to apply for part-time foreign caregiving services. Currently, due to immigration laws, only the elderly who suffer from 1-10 severe mental or physical disabilities and score lower than 35 on the Bartel Index/require around-the-clock care are eligible to employ a foreign caregiver.

Typically these caregivers are hired full-time and the employer is responsible for providing food and accommodation. With the new pilot, the arrangement will be quite different: rather than making employers responsible for housing and accommodation, part-time foreign workers will be employed by NGOs who will take responsibility for their well-being and care.

While there will be no limits on how many hours foreign caregivers can be hired for, their employment needs to be in-line with Taiwan’s Labor Standards Act. All agreements between caregivers and non-profit organisations are to be covered in a contract, stipulating what is expected on the part of both the employee and the employer.

Reimbursement issues are still to be defined at a later time between two parties: local governments and the non-profit organisations (the prospective employers).

Receiving full-time local home-based caregiving care, is available for those elderly at a much higher income bracket. However, there are also government-supported long-term care services available to the elderly, particularly for the veterans, the poor, and those with disabilities. If the elderly is a veteran, the veteran affairs commission provides homes and long-term care services. The Council for Agriculture provides some assistance for aged farmers. For poor elderly with mild-disabilities, the Ministry of Interior provides long-term care support such as step-down care facilities, home services, dementia day care and care in a community setting, and the Bureau of Nursing and Health provides long-term care services, such as nursing home care and home nursing/home care rehabilitation to the poor and disabled.

The new pilot programme then has the potential to cater to a new market of elderly–to allow elderly who are slightly more affluent but still low to middle, middle class, who may not be in need of full-time caregiving support and who wish to age at home–the ability to receive long-term care services from a foreign caregiver who may not be as costly as a local one and only for when needed. It still remains to be seen how this programme will be operationalised and will ensure that local caregivers are adequately provided for. Also, whether or not foreign caregivers will accept the contractual terms and be willing to be part-time caregivers in Taiwan.



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