Will the return of immigrant workers save Korean manufacturers?

Groups of foreign workers wait for buses at Incheon International Airport, July 7. Yonhap

SMEs complain about tough regulations on hiring foreigners

By Park Jae-hyuk

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the domestic industry, which has been heavily dependent on migrant workers, especially for the past two years, due to delayed arrivals due to quarantine measures.
In addition to farmers and fishermen, especially small and medium-sized manufacturers are the main victims of foreign labor shortages.
According to Song Il-Jung, a member of the ruling Conservative People’s Power Party, even if a work permit is issued, it must wait for more than 50,000 foreign workers to enter South Korea in the past two years. did not become. Legislators said 73 percent of them should work for manufacturers.

The government has therefore accelerated its efforts to enable their prompt arrival, intended to reassure small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) working with shipbuilders, machinery manufacturers, and carmakers.
While the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy and the Ministry of Justice announced in April that rules on the E-7 visa would be eased partially to allow more foreign welders, painters, electrical engineers, and plant engineers to work for subcontractors of local shipbuilders, the Ministry of Employment and Labor said last month that it aims to enable at least 10,000 foreign workers to arrive in Korea every month during the second half of this year.

The labor ministry also plans to issue employment permits at once during the third quarter, instead of finishing the procedure by the fourth quarter, so that SMEs can escape the labor shortage as soon as possible.
“In collaboration with relevant ministries, we will accelerate our efforts to enable more foreign workers to enter Korea by the end of this year,” Labor Minister Lee Jung-Sik said.

Industry officials, however, have raised questions as to whether the government measures are effective enough to solve the labor shortage facing SMEs.
Shipbuilding subcontractors, for example, have urged the government to abolish the 20 percent cap on the proportion of foreigners in their workforce.

These companies have endeavored to attract foreign workers from other companies by offering higher wages. Although the shipbuilding industry has recently recovered, former employees did not return after leaving the shipyard after the industry’s downturn in 2016. ” There are industrial shipyards and Korean shipyards.

SMEs operating in various industries have made similar inquiries to the Yun Seok-Yul administration. -Hyun, May 7, Chairman of the Gyeonggi Shipbuilding Cooperative, a conference co-sponsored by the Ministry of SMEs and Startups and the Korea SME Federation Hanam July 7.

Kim added that he hopes to raise the ceiling on the percentage of foreign workers in companies with less than 50 employees from the current 20% to 50%.
He also urged the government to prevent foreign workers from changing jobs more than three times during their four-year and ten-month working periods in South Korea. Currently, foreign workers can change their work up to 5 times.
“Almost half of the foreign workers changed jobs within six months of joining the company,” Kim said.
Cho Joo-Hyun, Deputy Minister of SMEs and Start-ups, has promised that the government will seek omnidirectional deregulation. However, Kim Mun-sil, head of the Ministry of Labor’s Foreign Ministry of Labor, said the government remains cautious about regulating the ability of foreign workers to find new employers. Their right to choose different professions.

A member of the Migrants’ Trade Union pickets in front of the Seoul Regional Employment and Labor Administration office, during a rally held on May Day in this May 1 file photo. Newsis

Need for better labor conditions

Some critics argue that SMEs are trying to solve the labor shortage by relying on foreign workers rather than improving working conditions to attract South Korean job seekers.
When the Justice Ministry decides to relax the rules for E-7 visas, members of Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) criticize the decision, and policies have an urgent need to improve working conditions and wages. He claimed to have addressed the underlying sexual problem. solve.

“The government’s plans to increase the number of migrant workers show that it was unable to recognize that the labor shortage in the shipbuilding industry was due to the low wages of contract workers,” said the HHI union at the time. rice field.

The union also pointed out the possibility of further accidents and the difficulty of communication. 4,444 human rights activists urged employers to improve the lives and working conditions of their migrant workers before seeking more migrant workers. According to 4,444 data provided by the Ministry of Labor to independent politician Yong Mi-Hyan, 358 foreign workers among E-9 visa holders who stayed in South Korea between 2017 and 2021 died. 4,444 144 are reported to have died of illness despite undergoing medical screening before arriving in the country. The number of foreign workers who died in occupational accidents reached 83.


Credit/Source : https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/tech/2022/07/419_332567.html


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