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Indonesia – Labourer information request creates tension with Taiwan

11 September 2013

The Indonesia government's recent request for personal data about foreign Indonesian labourers working in Taiwan and their employers has created tension between the two countries, with Indonesia raising the possibility of recalling the labourers, according to the China Post.

The Indonesian Economic and Trade Office to Taipei (IETO) is alleged to have made a request to Taiwanese recruitment agencies for personal data on Indonesian labourers and their employers in Taiwan.

According to sources from recruitment agencies, they were told that Indonesia might refuse to allow the continued provision of Indonesian labour after they were refused the information. Taiwanese agencies are required to keep the mostly digitized personal information databanks secret otherwise they would breach Taiwan's Personal Information Protection Act.

Some amendments to the Personal Information Protection Act were implemented last October. The amendments were intended to update and enhance the data protection elements of the digital databank according to the Personal Data Protection Act which covers the collection, processing and use of personal data by “regulated entities” — recruitment agencies included.

According to United Evening News, the Council of Labour Affairs (CLA) has attempted to intervene but with little success.

Close to 160,000 Indonesians work in Taiwan, mainly as care givers or domestic maids. According to a recruitment agency, the proprietor of which asked not to be named, 1,000 agencies will be affected if the Indonesia government orders a ban on the deployment of its workers to Taiwan.

The CLA confirmed receiving a briefing from IETO about the disclosure of personal data, and it had briefed IETO on Taiwan's personal data protection restrictions.

Although IETO expressed understanding about the privacy concerns of Taiwanese employers, they still insisted that accessing the personal data of Indonesian labourers working in Taiwan was necessary, according to local media.

The CLA revealed that the motive of the IETO request is linked to preparation for an upcoming election by registered mail. However, CLA said it has referred the request to the Ministry of Justice and is appealing for a legal interpretation.

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