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Recruiting Immigrant Workers: Korea 2019

image of Recruiting Immigrant Workers: Korea 2019

The Korean labour migration system has expanded since the mid-2000s, primarily in the admission of temporary foreign workers for less skilled jobs. Its temporary labour programme, addressed largely at SMEs in manufacturing and based on bilateral agreements with origin countries, has become the largest such programme in the OECD.  Structural changes in the labour force, with a rapidly shrinking and highly educated youth population, keep the underlying demand for this programme strong. Yet skills levels of workers are increasing, and there is interest in increasing Korea's share in global talent mobility, including international students and innovative entrepreneurs. This book addresses the question of how to ensure that international recruitment can help meet urgent needs in the labour market which cannot be met locally, and how the temporary labour migration programme - and other migration streams - can evolve to ensure that Korea meets its policy objectives. This review first examines the characteristics of the Korean labour market and main challenges where labour migration can help address demand. Following a discussion of various programmes and procedures, the review assesses how labour migration is playing a role in different sectors and how programme governance could be improved. It then explores the channels for high-skilled migrants and how these could be improved in light of international experience.

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Context for Labour Migration

This chapter discusses developments in Korea that have implications for the role of labour migration. The development of the Korean economy is presented, in terms of its segmentation. The demographic trend of an aging population and a shrinking youth cohort is described. The chapter notes the high rate of tertiary education among young Koreans, and the relatively low education and skill level of the generation of Koreans currently heading into retirement. Vacancy data suggests continued demand for workers in firms offering low-quality jobs requiring little education. The chapter notes that young Koreans are an ill-fit with the jobs being vacated by retiring older workers.

English

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