Why aren’t East Asian doctors on strike?

  1. Human CUFreelance journalist
  1. Taipei
  1. Pumpkinsfool{at}gmail.com

Labor and pandemic pressures have pushed East Asia’s doctors to breaking point. But cultural attitudes to medicine and industrial action mean that strikes still inspire a challenging will. Human CU Reports on China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea

There are more than 10 different medical unions and hospital labor unions in Taiwan, with a total of 8000 members. During the pandemic, health professionals repeatedly took to the streets to demand compensation for their work during the pandemic. But one thing they have never done is a strike. In a context of headline-making strikes by peers in countries around the world, including the UK,1 Some American cities,2 and France,3 This may seem surprising.

Chang Heng-hao, a representative of the Taipei Doctors’ Union, founded in 2017 and Taiwan’s first doctors’ union, says he doesn’t expect doctors to strike in the next 10 to 20 years. The reasons are not just limited membership, but culture, the way labor disputes are mediated and many healthcare workers find the idea of ​​striking morally challenging.

Bureaucratic obstacles

However, things are slowly changing. Medical schools today organize doctors’ association speeches for students, for example. Hospital managers and government departments regularly talk to unions, partly due to the influence of doctors well-known in the media.

But despite growing awareness of labor rights, only a small percentage of Taiwan’s doctors are members of unions, even in hospitals with existing corporate unions (unions that unite employees of the same employer, regardless of profession).

The Taipei Doctors Association, for example, has grown from 70 members initially to 450 this year. However, this still accounts for less than 5% of the more than 10,000.

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