Domestic abuse hurts firms: group

Source:  Taipei Times, Taiwan

SOCIAL PROBLEMS: Corporate aid to victims of domestic violence would enable earlier intervention and have economic benefits as well
By Cody Yiu
Monday, Sep 06, 2004, Page 2
Domestic violence could be reduced through programs provided by employers, social activists suggested at a panel discussion last week.

At the discussion on domestic violence hosted by a Chinese-language commercial magazine, social activists agreed that initiatives from the corporate sector to provide employees with marriage counseling have led to increased productivity. As such, it could provide an incentive for companies to implement social programs.

"US companies initiated employee assistance programs (EAPs), which at first were provided help to employees who were struggling with alcoholism, but later developed into a welfare program dedicated to serving employees' families. Since then EAPs have become one of the major incentives used by US companies to recruit or retain valuable employees," said Wang Lih-rong (王麗容), an associate professor of sociology at National Taiwan University (NTU).

This year marked the fifth anniversary of the nation's Domestic Violence Prevention Act (家庭暴力防治法). Taiwan was the first country in Asia to introduce such a law, and Japan followed suit two years ago.

According to statistics from the Ministry of the Interior, on average each victim of domestic violence incurs NT$471,000 of medical expenses every year.

Last year the number of reported victims of domestic violence was 36,772, which translates into a NT$17.3 billion financial burden, which was partly paid by taxpayers.

"On average, there are 3,744 domestic violence cases per month and there is a 15.4 percent increase every year. Traditional Taiwanese custom suggests people not air their dirty laundry in public; however, the increased number [of reported cases] is encouraging because it shows that more and more victims have the courage to step out and speak about what has happened to them," said the ministry's vice minister without portfolio Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎).

Chien also stated that it was important for employers to take care of families first.

According to a phone survey conducted by Wang, financially disadvantaged households experience a high rate of domestic violence, at 32 percent. On the other hand, high-income individuals, with monthly salaries between NT$50,000 and NT$100,000, also make up 11 percent of those surveyed.

"Sources available in the workplace can be very effective since a lot of personal interactions take place [there] and therefore resources are easily accessible," said Wang.

Wang said that a study found that problems faced by an employee are often not personal but rather familial.

"Here are two major reasons why companies should care about employee well-being: family problems make unhappy workers; by losing an employee, a company has to suffer a high replacement cost," Wang said.

Chang Chin-li (張錦麗), chief operations officer at the Modern Women's Foundation stated that the Taiwanese justice system does not favor women who have been abused.

"There was a legal case where a battered woman's request for a restraining order and a move-out order was denied by the court because she was still getting a household allowance from her husband," Chang said.

Chang Shu-feng (張淑芬), wife of the chairman of semiconductor giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manu-facturing Corporation, who man-ages a cultural foundation and has long volunteered at the Modern Women's Foundation, called for an integration of all social groups that tackle domestic violence.

"There are a lot of social groups out there that care about this issue. They go ahead and apply for their registrations and then go their separate ways. Victims of domestic violence thus get scattered information as to what help is available," she said.

"Therefore, the government could take the initiative to integrate and classify different services provided by each social group so that someone who wishes to seek a particular kind of aid can find it easily. In short, social resources could be managed like companies do business," said Chang Shu-feng.
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