The government should gradually open up sectors to Indian migrant workers and arrange more exchanges with New Delhi to promote mutual understanding, the Taiwan Association for India Studies said in a statement on Thursday.

The statement came in the wake of criticism online after an official said that Taiwan would sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with India by the end of the year to bring in more Indian migrant workers to help address a labour shortage.

Comments on social media, including on the Ministry of Labour's Facebook page, said that the proposed policy would endanger “Taiwanese women’s safety.”

A group that opposes opening up to migrant workers from more nations on Facebook urged people to protest on Dec. 3 against the plan.

The association said that many Indians work around the world and are highly praised by the international community.

Opening up Taiwan to Indian workers would enhance the bilateral partnership, it said.

The association also expressed regret over “discriminatory comments” against Indian workers, and vowed to help Taiwanese overcome stereotypes about the south Asian nation by promoting Indian research and cultural exchanges.

The backlash is an indication of Taiwanese society’s unfamiliarity with Indian culture, which leads to misunderstandings, it said.

Government agencies should promote exchanges between Taiwan and India in areas such as media, youth affairs, education and culture so that Taiwanese could better understand Indian society and the importance of the Taiwan-India relationship, it said.

Cross-Border Workforce Management Division head Su Kuo-yu said that the government still needs to finalize details of the MOU, including the sectors to be included and the number of workers to be hired.

About 18 million Indian workers are employed around the world, including in Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the UK and the US, Su said.

About 2,700 Indian workers are employed in professional fields in Taiwan, including the high-tech sector, Su said, expressing hope that Taiwanese could gain a better understanding of such people.

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