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.



Low-skilled labour migration in Korea

This chapter discusses the low-skilled labour migration framework in Korea, whether current policy can meet future needs and safeguard local workers and programme participants. The chapter traces the evolution of the Employment Permit System and options for the future. The different features of the EPS are described and compared with prevailing practice in other OECD countries, highlighting unique features such as a points system for authorising employers to recruit foreign workers and ongoing state management. The programme for ethnic Koreans, which accounts for a large share of foreign workers, is also analysed. The chapter examines whether constraints on mobility suppress wage growth for workers. Compliance measures to reduce overstay and abusive practices by employers are reviewed, including incentives for return and facilitations for mobility and status change. The chapter then concludes with a discussion for the more efficient operation of the system.


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