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Number of furloughed workers edges up, topping 17,000

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Taipei, Sept. 24 (CNA) The number of furloughed workers in Taiwan increased slightly over the past week as the economic impact of COVID-19-related border restrictions remained, the Ministry of Labor (MOL) said Thursday.

As of that day, the number of workers who had reached an agreement with their employers to be placed on unpaid leave programs totaled 17,009, up 144 from 16,865 recorded a week ago, according to data compiled by the MOL.

Meanwhile, the number of employers on unpaid leave programs increased by 53 to 893 during the one-week period, the data indicated.

Most of the increases during the past week came in the retail/wholesale, logistics/warehousing, lodging and food/beverage industries, as well as the service sector, including education consulting firms offering study abroad options globally, according to the data.

Taipei saw the largest growth in the number of employers implementing unpaid leave programs over the past week, rising to 251 from 226.

Huang Wei-chen, deputy director of the MOL's Department of Labor Standards and Equal Employment, attributed the largest growth in Taipei to the continuing border controls that have taken a toll on local industries.

Noting that the growth in the number of companies implementing unpaid leave programs had significantly outpaced the growth in the number of furloughed workers over the past week, Huang said this was because fewer large and medium-sized enterprises implemented the programs, while more small and micro-sized businesses put their employees on unpaid leave.

The retail/wholesale industry recorded the highest number of employers on unpaid leave programs at 307, followed by the manufacturing sector with 270 and the support service industry at 80, according to ministry data.

The manufacturing sector recorded the largest number of furloughed workers, with 10,263 over the past week, ahead of the retail/wholesale industry with 2,882 and the logistics/warehousing sector with 1,388, the data showed.

Most of the enterprises implementing furlough programs are small firms with workforces of fewer than 50 people.

These unpaid leave programs typically last for fewer than three months and involve employees taking five to eight days of unpaid leave per month, according to the ministry.

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