The number of illegal runaway foreign workers – those who leave their employers and their whereabouts become unaccounted for – in the “productive industries” and “social welfare” sectors in Taiwan dropped to 18,209 persons last year, the fewest since 2003.

According to a statistics report published online by the Ministry of Labor on Thursday, the total number of migrant workers in those two sectors as of the end of 2017 was 676,142, only 2.78% of whom became runaways, the Central News Agency reported.

A downward trend had in fact been noted for the past three years.

Hsueh Chien-chung, an official representing the ministry’s Workforce Development Agency, said the reasons for workers running away from their positions could be inexhaustible.

The implementation of the Employment Services Act amendment, under which foreign workers no longer have to leave Taiwan every three years, together with the authorities’ increased efforts to combat illegal work, helped bring the numbers down, Hsueh suggested.

By nationality, Vietnamese workers topped the runaway list with 10,056 persons, followed by Indonesians with 7,391. Only 536 Filipino and 226 Thai runaways were noted as of end-2017.