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Foreign Worker Employment Plan Helps Ease Labor Shortages But Illegal Immigrant Issues Remain

Foreign Worker Employment Plan Helps Ease Labor Shortages But Illegal Immigrant Issues Remain

Posted August. 10, 2005 03:11,   


The Employment Permission System for foreign workers, which marks its first anniversary on August 17, has taken hold in our society as a means for helping small-and-mid sized companies suffering from labor shortages.

However, critics point out that there are still many challenges to be resolved. For example, it takes too many days for companies to hire foreign employees and the number of illegal immigrants also remains unchanged since then.

One Year After the Introduction of the Employment Permission System-

The government decided to adopt the system since the Industrial Training Program for foreign workers had caused a lot of social problems.

In January 2003, 10 years after the authorities introduced the industrial training program in 1993, 80 percent, or 287,000 out of a total number of 363,000 foreign employees were staying Korea without permission, meaning that they were taking jobs away from Koreans. Moreover, the areas where alien people were populous became slums. Still worse, in the process of realizing the industrial training system, a string of illegal acts such as corruption in choosing industrial trainees, delayed payment for wages and the violation of human rights were reported.

In the end, the government introduced an employment permission system in August last year under which businesses that have difficulties hiring workers in Korea to legally employ foreign workers and the government manages the inflow and outflow of foreign workers firsthand. Since then, a total of 14,835 alien workers came into Korea to work at small-and-mid sized companies.

Light and Shadow-

The Labor Research Institute announced at “The Conference for Celebrating the First Anniversary of the Employment Permission System” held in Yeouido, Seoul on August 9 that it found that the system has produced expected effects in terms of human rights protection and employment management of foreign workers after conducting surveys subject to small-and-mid sized companies.

However, they all said that there were still many issues to be improved. The biggest obstacle is the delay of entry of foreign employees and the complexity of the system. A relevant person of Greencam Inc., which runs a handset coating business at the Sihwa industrial complex in Ansan, said, “The company suffered a lot since they could not supply labor in time. The company wanted to hire two workers from Thailand, but the procedure was delayed for about two months,” adding, “When we asked what happened in the process to related government agencies such as the Human Resources Development Service of Korea, we only heard the answer, ‘we don’t know.’”

Business circles also complained about the fact that foreign workers get the same minimum wage as Koreans. Shin, the president of the company, said, “We are subscribing various insurances for foreign workers to guarantee severance money, wages, and costs for returning to their home countries and providing beds and meals. Under the circumstances, businesses are shouldering too much burden as they are obliged to apply the same minimum wage system to foreign workers as Koreans.”

The number of illegal immigrants also remains the same. According to the ministries of Justice and Labor, as of June, 55.5 percent or 197,000 out of a total of 355,000 foreign employees were illegal immigrants.

Keuk-In Bae bae2150@donga.com