Labor Law Reform in Taiwan: At the Intersection of Emancipation and Decommodification Movements
Scholars have largely adopted a historical institutionalist framework to explain the passage of the reforms. According to this perspective, both major parties battled to secure key electoral support by implementing progressive revisions to Taiwan’s anachronistic labor laws. Intense electoral competition after the end of martial law in 1987, in particular, created avenues for incorporating working class interests into formal political processes.
A broadly Polanyian framework, however, provides greater analytical clarity to the passage of the 2011 revisions. In this article, I argue that the KMT enacted the series of reforms to deflect worker demands to employers, undermine opposition to negotiations with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and substantiate the party’s claim to be an equal stakeholder in democratization despite persisting anti-democratic institutions and practices associated with the party. Viewed in broader socio-historical perspective, the pro-labor 2011 reforms ironically helped to both facilitate an expanding neoliberal policy regime and subdue emancipatory demands associated with Taiwan’s ‘dual transition’ from authoritarian state corporatism to electoral democratic neoliberalism. With a broad cross-section of social groups suspicious of cross-Strait economic negotiations, implementing reforms to decommodify labor was designed to placate and fragment political opposition while simultaneously defusing emancipatory demands and safeguarding the core tenets of neoliberalism.