Last week, it was reported by Indian media that India and Taiwan were on the brink of signing an MoU that would enable about 100,000 Indian workers to work in the East Asian nation. The announcement was also made by the Taiwanese Ministry of Labour. But as soon as the news broke in Taiwan, netizens there were soon out in force displaying blatant racism towards Indian men.
Several posts were made accusing Indian men of being dirty, uneducated and even putting women’s safety at risk. Some even went a step ahead, terming Indian men ‘rapists’ and called for a march early next month in a bid to press the authorities to reverse the decision.
The stereotype about Indian men was also hyped by China-backed media, which often pushes the narrative of the lack of safety of women in India. Facing the mounting pressure, Taiwanese Labour Minister Hsu Ming-chun clarified earlier this week that the news about the arrival of Indian workers was ‘inaccurate’. However, he agreed that the talks were going on with the Indian side.
Puncturing the stereotype
Indian workers, including both blue-collar and white-collar, are present worldwide. According to a World Bank report from December last year, remittances from Indian labourers abroad were poised to reach a record USD 100 billion for the year, reflecting a 7.5 per cent growth in 2021 compared to the previous year. This shows the acceptance of Indian workers globally has only been increasing.
While sexual crimes exist in India and globally, the stereotypes associated with Indian labourers hinder potential co-operation between India and Taiwan.
Speaking of sexual crimes, even Taiwan’s own record is dented. Statistics indicate that, on average, a case of abuse occurs every five minutes in Taiwan, with 322 cases reported daily. The numerous crimes against women and children underscore Taiwan’s issues with misogyny.
The unfortunate reality is that women globally often lack equal status, leading to crimes, unequal pay, workplace harassment, and unfair work burdens. This predicament is not unique to India, Taiwan, or China. However, associating these crimes with certain nationalities and exhibiting racism is not the solution to achieving global gender justice.
India-Taiwan co-operation: A win-win for both sides
Taiwan is expected to become a “super-aged” society by 2025. It means that elderly people will account for more than 20 per cent of its population by that year. India is well-suited to fill this labour gap in the East Asian economy, with a plentiful young and talented workforce employable worldwide.
Taiwan’s ageing problem is a crisis-in-making, and to ward off its impacts on its strong economy, Indian workers might play a huge role. So, any such arrangement will only help both sides. It will help India rein in the rising domestic unemployment levels, while also ramping up the potential of increased foreign remittances. For Taiwan, Indian workers can prove to be crucial to help it shore up its $790 billion economy.
This is in line with Taiwan’s Southbound Policy, which has pushed the country’s firms to develop relations with India in order to find alternative markets for China.
Taiwan’s lack of focus on India
According to Sana Hashmi, a vocal supporter of strong India-Taiwan ties, Taiwan’s lack of focus on India is still a major hurdle in the economic co-operation between the two nations. India has not been a historic source of economic growth, trade and funding for Taiwan. So, the country’s media and scholars often remain largely focused on Europe and the US. As a result, India doesn’t receive the attention it deserves as both an economic and strategic partner.
Taiwan’s racism problem
Despite being a technological powerhouse, Taiwan on several occasions has garnered attention for displaying blatant racism towards Indians and Southeast Asians. In 2021, when Taiwan was reeling under a massive COVID-19 outbreak, it came under fire for imposing discriminatory policies on Southeast Asian workers that restricted their freedom of movement. The same restrictions didn’t apply to their Taiwanese counterparts.
Taiwan has a long history of racist policies governing its Southeast Asian foreign workers, whose lives are largely controlled by employers and third-party labour brokers notorious for exploitative practices that sometimes cross into the realm of forced labour.
Taiwan’s reputation in danger
Given Taiwan’s democratic credentials and its enchanting spirit to ward off China’s constant warmongering, the island nation enjoys a good reputation among Indians. This has even bolstered New Delhi to explore deeper economic and strategic ties with Taiwan, even if they come at the cost of risking China’s retaliation.
India’s support for Taiwan boosts the island country’s international image and hurts China’s campaign to ostracise it internationally. The Taiwanese government needs to urgently take drastic measures to fight off racism and discrimination and create a friendly environment. Otherwise, the strategic and economic investment that both nations have put into building the bedrock of solid ties will go down the drain.