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.



Talent, innovation and investment through migration

This chapter examines the framework for skilled migrants in Korea, including students, investors and intra-corporate transferees. Korea offers highly qualified foreigners a variety of permit categories with relatively generous conditions for initial residence and rapid access to permanent status. Yet there are few high-skilled foreign workers. The chapter explores the obstacles beyond labour migration policy itself for highly-skilled workers to arrive and remain in Korea. Highly-skilled labour migration policy is analysed in light of the saturated labour market for tertiary-educated residents. It examines the articulation of visa categories for professional foreigners and whether these are suited to the policy objectives. The chapter discusses how these could be adjusted. Finally, the chapter considers the possible relevance of a Secretariat for analysis on the impact and direction of labour migration policy going forward.


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