While the amended labor laws were expected to alleviate the financial burdens of migrant workers, workers and labor rights advocates pointed out that employment agencies continued to deploy different ways to charge excessively while workers enter new or renew their contracts.

On December 16, about 100 migrant workers and members of the Taiwan International Workers’ Association protested outside the Ministry of Labor in Taipei City, Taiwan, demanding government action and a crackdown on employment agencies that charged illegal service fees, the Taipei Times reported.

Previously migrant workers in Taiwan who had worked for three consecutive years had to take at least a day abroad, according to a provision in the Employment Service Act, which was abolished in October 2016 as a means of preventing foreign employees from being repeatedly charged service fees by agencies.

However, over the past two years, instead of being able to save money incurred by flying home, many workers found themselves charged even more by agencies.

An Indonesian migrant worker named Andy said he paid an employment agency NT$75,000 (US$2,431) with a referral by a compatriot when he was in need of a new contract as his current one was about to end.

He had to borrow to pay the high service fee. However, he later found the new job was illegal.

When he wanted his money back and brought his case to the local department of labor, the agency lied and claimed they never charged him a fee.

Migrant job seekers who had completed their previous contracts were forced to pay agencies a service fee of between NT$20,000 and NT$80,000, Taiwan International Workers’ Association director of policy research Chen Hsiu-lien said during the protest.

In a case of contract renewal, it would require an average service fee of between NT$20,000 and NT$40,000, while a minimum fee of NT$40,000 or up to NT$80,000 for migrants to secure a new job contract, the association found.