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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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Foreword

This review of Korea’s labour migration policy is the ninth of a series conducted by the OECD Secretariat as a follow-up to the 2009 High Level Policy Forum on International Migration. The rationale for this initiative was the recent growth in labour migration observed in many countries and the likelihood that recourse to labour migration would increase in the context of demographic ageing. Prior to the global economic crisis of the late 2000s, many countries had made substantial changes to labour migration policies with a view to facilitating recruitment from abroad. With the introduction of these changes, more prominence was accorded to the question of their effectiveness, and more broadly to the objectives of labour migration policy in general. Although the economic crisis put a damper on labour migration movements, it did not stop them entirely, and interest in labour migration policy is unlikely to diminish in the near future.

English

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