Summary of the main recommendations for Korea

Reorganise permit categories in light of long-term migration strategy

  • Clarify the role of immigration in meeting short-term and structural labour needs in the medium term, to clarify to employers their options for recruiting and to students their post-graduation options.

  • Simplify the wide range of permit grounds to clarify temporary non-renewable, temporary renewable and permanent permit classes. Separate and simplify permanent residence visas, through possible extension of the current F-2 points system.

  • Consider separating the E-7 permit into labour-market tested medium-skilled permits and labour-market test-exempt higher skilled permits.

  • Points-based selection for different permits (F-2, E-7, investor permits, etc.) could be opened to applicants from any prior status meeting criteria, rather than apply to specific status change channels.

Reinforce mechanisms to prevent employers from becoming dependent on lower-productivity E-9 workers and to provide incentives for improving working conditions

  • The points based system could take into account recent hiring behaviour of employers, penalising those who lay off resident workers after hiring E-9 workers

  • The government should make efforts to award more permits to firms which improve the quality of jobs.

  • Penalties should be imposed on employers who abuse workers.

  • Firms with higher scores under the PBS could be allowed to recruit more foreign workers than lower-scored firms.

  • If mechanisms to increase cost to employers and favour hiring of resident workers are implemented, higher wages should be preferred to employer levies.

  • E-9 workers who are skilled, or have acquired skills and abilities in Korea, should have opportunities to work in professional fields and change residential status.

Improve equal treatment for foreign workers

  • Do not ask employers for age, gender and nationality preference for EPS workers.

  • Allow foreigners with permanent residence equal access to income support benefits.

Improve the potential of labour migration programmes to meet a wider range of needs

  • Together with a clear 10-year limit to E-9 employment, inform participants and employers of criteria for bridging from E-9 to E-7. Consider allowing transition through points to be accumulated during the years of E-9 employment.

  • Expand the seasonal agricultural worker programme cautiously, allowing local authorities to sponsor seasonal workers on condition of low overstay rates. Future development, based on interinstitutional co-operation between national and local authorities, could lead to establish bilateral agreements for seasonal workers with key partner countries granting repeat spells of employment.

  • Reinforce outreach to employers, especially larger employers, to support employment of international students

  • Evaluate the outcomes of investors under the D-8 and other investor visa programmes in terms of the economic impact of investments and the effective residence of investor visa holders. Make renewal conditional on business outcomes but maintain favourable bridge to permanent residence.

Promote the integrity of the system and improve compliance

  • Maintain caution on enrolment of international students, requiring proof of entrance criteria and devoting particular supervision to language courses where students are granted, and use, labour market access.

  • The departure guarantee insurance should be able to be tracked as an individual account.

Collect detailed data and conduct analysis to inform future reforms on a number of important issues

  • Consider creating a Secretariat at the Foreign Workforce Policy Committee to commission and analyse empirical analyses of the impact of foreign workers on the economy and labour market, and to propose policy measures in response to queries or mandates from the government.

  • Examine firm data for firms allocated foreign workers to understand the effect on employment and wages of Korean workers in these firms, and the survival rates of these firms, relative to firms which did not request, and those which did not receive, foreign workers.

  • Track the outcomes of international students more closely.

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