Policy for Foreign Workers
The initial purpose of the South Korean government’s policy for the employment of foreign workers was to respond to a decline in working age population resulting from low fertility and rapid aging. Based on the policy, the number of foreigners staying in South Korea exceeded one million in 2007 and two million last year. The problem is that most of the foreign workers in the country are non-professionals unlike its expectations.
According to the Ministry of Justice, the number of such qualified yet non-professional foreign workers in South Korea amounts to 539,940. The number is estimated to be more than 700,000 when illegal immigrants are included in the calculation. Meanwhile, that of qualified professional foreign workers stands at 48,334. The Korea Labor Institute pointed out that the policy of the government cannot be a long-term one in this regard.
Side effects took the form of a decline in the employment of South Korean workers. Some experts point out that the employment of South Koreans falls 1.7% every time the rate of employment of foreigners increases by one percentage point in the country. In a recent survey, the ratio of South Koreans who answered that foreigners are stealing jobs from them increased from 30.2% to 34.6% between 2011 and 2015.
“The most important part is to change the labor market structure that has attracted low-cost labor from abroad, not to increase the number of foreign workers,” the Gyeonggi Research Institute advised, continuing, “A control tower should be established so that foreign worker employment policy can be managed in an integrated and systematic way.”