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Furloughed worker numbers up slightly amid raised COVID-19 alert

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Taipei, May 24 (CNA) The number of furloughed workers in Taiwan increased only slightly in the past week, although the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has raised the COVID-19 alert to Level 3 in response to a spike in domestically transmitted cases, according to data released by the Ministry of Labor on Monday.

The data showed that the number of employees who agreed with their employers to take unpaid leave hit 3,925, up 38 from the figure of 3,887 released on May 17.

The data also indicated that the number of companies carrying out unpaid leave programs also rose to 414, up 11 from 403 a week earlier.

At a time when the service sector has been feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Huang Wei-chen (黃維琛), director of the MOL's Department of Labor Standards and Equal Employment, told CNA that the accommodation and food/beverage industries saw a rise in furloughed workers in the past week, up 63 from a week earlier to 215, while the number of firms putting employees into furlough rose five to 18.

The number of furloughed workers in the transportation and warehousing industry rose to 1,306 from 1,281 a week earlier, while the number in the support service industry, which included travel agencies, fell to 913 from 916, according to the MOL.

As long as the country's border controls remain effective, the service sector is expected to continue to feel the pinch, Huang said.

Commenting on the Level 3 alert over COVID-19, which was imposed on May 18 for the whole of Taiwan, three days after it took effect in Taipei and New Taipei, Huang said that since the tightened measures were only effective for only a few days, the impact remained limited.

A Level 3 alert, which has been imposed in Taiwan for the first time, stops short of a lockdown and goes into effect when more than three community clusters are confirmed in a week or over 10 domestic cases of unknown origin are reported in a single day.

In the past week, Huang said, the export-oriented manufacturing sector remained stable despite the increase in domestic COVID-19 cases.

According to the MOL, the transportation and warehousing industry reported the largest number of furloughed workers in the past week (1,306), ahead of the support service industry (913) and the manufacturing sector (708), down from 779 a week earlier.

The MOL updates its furloughed worker data on the 1st, 8th, 16th and 24th of every month. The numbers only cover unpaid leave plans put in place by companies that are reported to the ministry.

Most of the enterprises implementing furlough programs are small firms with work forces 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 MOL.

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