“After I became pregnant, my boss started making me do more manual labor than usual. I had to carry materials up to 20kg around the workplace, and I wasn't allowed to use a cart. All I could think of was, I had to protect my baby. He is the most precious thing in my life”.
As she spoke about her child, Jocelyn's eyes were filled with maternal love, as well as strength and determination.
Image source: Unsplash
High education, low wage jobs
Jocelyn, 33, graduated from college with a degree in computer engineering, and speaks fluent English. She came from a humble background yet displayed incredible indepence and willpower, deciding to work abroad for better opportunities. In Taiwan she became a low-level factory worker, part of a crew responsible for picking out faulty fiberglass parts. The worst part of her job was the verbal abuse she and other workers had to endure from the manager, as well as the discriminatory treatment. He would use all sorts of words to deride and sneer at them, in both English and Chinese, and insult their intelligence and ability. Since they didn't speak Chinese all that well, all they could do was pretend they didn't understand.
Jocelyn, like many other college graduates in Taiwan, wants to use her education and work ethic to give herself and her family a better life. The fact that she chose to leave her country shouldn't mean that she can be treated with discrimination and prejudice. No matter where she goes, she’s a human being with her own will and self-worth, not a machine to be used.
Image source: Unsplash
While Jocelyn was always careful with birth control, she discovered she was pregnant at the beginning of 2021. With her attention to detail and her high level of education, she had studied Taiwanese labor laws and understood that she couldn’t be fired due to her pregnancy.
“But the broker and the factory keep telling me to go back to the Philippines, using all sorts of threats. I never thought it would come to this; I know my rights, so I was pretty shocked” said Jocelyn, resignedly. Even though her right to work is legally protected, the factory managers forced her to do manual labor that quickly became physically impossible for her, then dismissed her as “being unable to handle the job”.
“I was the only pregnant woman there. All the others had left because they didn’t know what their rights were. The broker was shocked when I told him I wanted to keep working, since I was the first person to fight for my right to work.” Jocelyn was forced to choose between financial security and protecting her unborn child,;the broker and her employer wouldn't let her have both, even with legal protection.
Sexual discrimination against migrant workers
Even though Taiwan takes pride in having passed the Act of Gender Equality in Employment, pregnancy discrimination has always lurked in the shadows. It's even worse for migrant mothers, who often don't understand their legal rights or are pushed into accepting their fate because they don't know who to turn to. They’re often deported, many of them still in debt just from coming to Taiwan, and must try to make ends meet in their home countries.
In the past six months, we at SPA have helped Jocelyn through her prenatal checkups, find a new broker agency, and get the treatment she deserves. Most pregnant migrant mothers only want the same thing as their Taiwanese counterparts - a reasonable wage, a steady job, and to watch their children grow up safely.