Taiwan Legal Update: Taiwan Increases National Minimum Wage & Taipei District Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Couple

WEEKY NEWS PICTURE (TW)

Taiwan Legal Update: Taiwan Increases National Minimum Wage & Taipei District Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Couple

The Basic Wage Review Committee concludes, Raising the monthly minimum wage by 3%

The minimum monthly wage increased by 50% since 2011. Following several hours of deliberation with labor, capital, academic and political groups, The Basic Wage Deliberation Committee of the Ministry of Labor (MOL) agreed to raise the national minimum wage. The hourly and monthly rate will increase by 5% and 3%, respectively.

The overall socio-economic situation, consumer price index, annual growth rates, domestic economic growth rate and the capacity of SMEs and micro-enterprises were key considerations.  During deliberations, representatives from employer groups outlined the necessity to consider current global market conditions when raising the national minimum wage. They also expressed the need to consider potential strain caused by international trade disputes. On the other hand, the chairman of the Labor Party and the National Federation of Trade Unions stated: “Taiwanese workers deserve better treatment." Labor groups advocated for workers’ rights, specifically citing the need to improve conditions for “grass-root workers”, considering recent price fluctuations in commodities.

The monthly minimum wage increases from NT$23,100 to $23,800. As for the hourly minimum wage, it increases from NT$150 to NT$158.

In line with the Labor Standards Act, foreign workers in Taiwan will be entitled to this pay raise.  Altogether, 2.31 million laborers will benefit from this change; 1.36 million Taiwanese, 430,000 migrant and 520,000 part-time workers.

The R.O.C General Chamber of Commerce expressed concerns that this measure could result in an increase in commodity prices, raise the cost of living, reduce real purchasing power and affect domestic demand.

Several business groups expressed concerns that the increase in hourly wages and monthly salaries may significantly increase labor costs by 20 billion. The share of all enterprises in Taiwan held by SMEs is roughly 96.49%, 80% of which are micro-enterprises. Such businesses may not have the capacity to shoulder the cost in the current global climate.

If one assumes labor markets are competitive and perhaps an increase in the national minimum wage encourages lower employment, then rising unemployment will harm aggregate demand. People who become unemployed would spend less, leading to lower aggregate demand. Critics of this decision point to Korea as a cautionary tale. The minimum wage salary increased by nearly 30% over three years. Despite measures adopted to prevent this, unemployment in Korea reached 1.52 million and many small and medium-sized enterprises have closed down.

Alternatively, if workers receive a pay rise, there could be a rise in consumer spending. Thus, low-income workers are likely to have higher marginal propensity to consume. A pay rise could also cause a multiplier effect, causing knock-on effects elsewhere in the economy; this should encourage economic growth.

The proposed changes have now been sent to the Cabinet for approval. Once approved, this would mark the fourth time the monthly minimum wage has been increased since 2011.

 

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Taipei District Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Couple

On 14th August, Taipei District Court ruled in favor of a man who lost his partner before the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan.

Background

The couple in-question registered their same-sex partnership at a New Taipei household registration office in June 2017. This allowed them to sign medical consent forms for each other. One of them died in November of the same year. His partner consequently applied to the Bureau of Labor Insurance for a funeral subsidy. The application was reviewed and subsequently rejected because the people concerned were in a same-sex partnership but were not legally married at the time. The Bureau stated that only married couples are entitled to this benefit. Despite several appeals, he was continuously denied on the same basis.  Therefore, he filed an administrative lawsuit with the Taipei District Court.

The claimant’s partner had died before the implementation of the Interpretation Act No. 748. This law took effect on May 24, 2019. It not only gives same-sex couples the right to get married, but also entitles them to the rights originally reserved for married heterosexual couples.

Ratio decidendi

The Taipei District Court believes that the interpretation of the Interpretation Act No. 748 should be applied to treat the “same-sex couple notes" during the transition period as “marriage registration" and to apply the provisions of Article 62, paragraph 1, “spouse" of the Labor Insurance Ordinance.

The Judgment states that in accordance with Articles 2 and 4 of the Interpretation Act of Articles 982 and 748 of the Civil Code, whether it is a heterosexual marriage or a permanent combination of intimacy and exclusivity, it is “written" or “more than 2 persons". The signature of the witness and the “marriage registration" are formal requirements.

Verdict

The court agreed that the couple had established a permanent and exclusive relationship. Albeit not a legal marriage, their partnership was formal, endorsed by two or more witnesses, and recorded by the Household Office for same-sex couples. The Labor Insurance Bureau did not dispute whether the couple were following the formal requirements for marriage as defined in Article 982 of the Civil Law, except for the registration of marriage by the household administration.

The Court relied on the interpretation of the purpose of guaranteeing the freedom and equality of same-sex marriage, and the analogy applied to the provisions of Article 4 of the Interpretation Act No. 748 and the previous paragraph of Article 24, Item 2, and the couple during the transition period. “Same-sex couple notes" is regarded as “marriage registration" and is subject to the provisions of Article 62, paragraph 1, “Spouse" of the Labor Insurance Ordinance.

The judge also believes that the term “spouse" is applicable to their relationship at the time of death.

As a result, the claimant was awarded the funeral allowance according to the provisions of Article 62, paragraph 1, of the Labor Insurance Regulations. The initial judgment and the dispute review were all revoked.

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