Recruiting Immigrant Workers: Korea 2019

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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.



Evolution and Characteristics of Labour Migration to Korea

This chapter covers the recent history of migration to Korea and the development of overall migration policy in the country. It notes the transition to a net immigration country in the 2000s. It discusses the rising share of foreigners in the total resident population, compares it to trends in other OECD countries and examines the categories under which foreigners are resident in Korea. The chapter examines the age, education and employment characteristics of the foreign population in Korea, by gender, relative to that of the Korean population and in international comparison. The chapter examines the contribution of foreigners to employment in different sectors of the Korean economy, assessing the role of foreigners in the composition of change in the labour force over the past decade as compared to other OECD countries. The chapter then discusses the main institutional actors and recent economic migration policy milestones in Korea. The chapter concludes with an overview of the visa system and of inflows by visa category.


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