As the agricultural sector faces labor shortages, the Council of Agriculture has begun a pilot program this month to have prison inmates work on farms, with 56 positions available across 6 prisons. However, as many farmers are uncomfortable with having inmates work on their fields, the inmates have mostly been hired by local farmers' associations. Another thing about the program, is that the inmates must work on the same farm, so smallholders who need only one or two workers are not eligible for the program.
At 8 o'clock every morning, five inmates from the Pingtung Prison come to the Wandan Farmers' Association to help sort and polish adzuki beans.
With the agricultural sector facing a labor shortage, the Council of Agriculture is collaborating on a pilot program with the Ministry of Justice that allows inmates from 6 prisons to work on farms. However, as many farmers are uncomfortable with the inmates, the workers are currently hired by local farmers' associations at NT$700 to NT$750 a day. The associations are satisfied with the inmates' performance, since only inmates that show good behavior can work outside of the prison.
==CHANG CHIH-LIEH Chair, Wandan Farmers' Association==
(The inmates) can resume contact and adapt to society earlier. As for the labor shortage problem in agriculture, I think this definitely helps as well.
There are currently only 56 positions available to inmates pending wider societal acceptance of the program. However, the inmates require a warden with them at all times, so the five workers from Pingtung must all be hired at the same time. This makes the program unsuited to smallholders.
==LIU HISANG-CHENG Technical Specialist, Dept. of Farmers' Service, COA==
For the inmates, the issue that all 5 must be hired at once cannot be solved. So we have farmhands that can be hired by smallholder or older farmers. Anyone who needs assistance can go to their farmers' association.
The Council of Agriculture said that farmhands are available for farmers who need fewer people. They have higher salaries but more technical expertise. Whether the two programs can fulfill farmers' needs remains to be seen.
TRANSLATED BY：JOHN CHEN
記者 王介村 許政俊 屏東報導