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Taiwan Considers Opening Citizenship to Skilled Southeast Asian Workers

To address an aging population and loss of skilled workers to more affluent neighbor nations, Taiwan is debating policies that would make it easier for skilled workers from Southeast Asian countries to achieve citizenship.

Legislators are debating an economic bill that would offer citizenship to students and professionals from ASEAN nations, according to the South China Morning Post. The proposal is considered to be a direct response to China's multi-faceted efforts to lure Taiwan's most skilled workers through incentives, higher salaries and various perks.

Because of low salaries, Taiwan has had little success attracting professionals from Japan, Hong Kong or Singapore to counter-balance the exodus. The situation is forcing the country to look to the less developed nations of Southeast Asia that are home to highly trained workers in search of better pay than is available in their domestic markets. 

Taiwan's rapidly aging population is another factor motiving the re-evaluation of citizenship regulations. National Development Council Minister Chen Mei-ling explained: "By 2026, 20% of the population will be over 65 years old, and in the following year, there will be an insufficient working-age population... If the current trend continues, by 2065, the population of Taiwan will fall to between 16 million and 18.8 million from 23.57 million in 2018."

If passed, the new legislation would allow for specially skilled foreigners to apply for citizenship after three years working in Taiwan, foreign professionals to apply after working for five years, and mid-level technicians or skilled workers after seven years. Moreover, students who graduated from a school in Taiwan could apply for citizenship after five to seven years working. These new policies would be open to nations outside of ASEAN; but due to proximity and economic conditions, Southeast Asian nationals are the focus of the bill.

While generally viewed positively, some critics of the proposed legislation are upset that a provision was recently removed that would have required foreigners to make investments into the nation as part of a path to citizenship. They argue that investment is stagnant in the island nation and the government should, therefore, follow in the footsteps of countries like the US and Singapore by making citizenship easier for those funneling significant money into the economy.

In addition to mulling over this bill, Taiwan recently streamlined the process for those already holding “Plum Blossom” Alien Permanent Resident Certificates (APRC) to become citizens. Starting next month these elite residents who "have made outstanding contributions to the nation and those who have earned certain awards or recognition from the government" will no longer need to undergo ministry review. Moreover, the nation is allowing certain individuals to obtain Taiwanese citizenship without first surrounding their original nationality.

[Photo via Creative Commons]

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