Annual quota for foreign workers increased by 14,000 (NEWS)

It is decided that 48,000 foreign workers will be permitted to get employed in Korea through the employment permit system (EPS) in 2011 with the annual quota for foreign workers increasing by 14,000 from this year.

The government convened the Foreign Workforce Policy Committee (chaired by the Minister for Prime Minister’s Office) and adopted the ‘2011 Foreign Workforce Introduction Plan’.

According to the plan, 48,000 foreign workers will be newly added to the labor market of Korea next year and this is an increase by 14,000 from 34,000 in 2010. This number reflects the substitute demand (48,000) derived from the number of foreign workers whose sojourn period end this year and that of the undocumented workers leaving Korea after crackdowns, while taking into account the economic prospects and domestic job situation, etc. for next year. Being flexible on the number of foreign workers to be introduced in 2011, the government will monitor future supply and demand of workforce, flow of undocumented workers, etc. to make an additional adjustment for the annual quota.

The quota of 48,000 for next year is all for general foreign workers holding an E-9 visa and ethnic Koreans with foreign nationalities having an H-2 visa, whose total number is being controlled, will remain at the level of 303,000 in total as 2010. 40,000-strong workers are allocated for manufacturing, which is being followed by agro-livestock industry and fisheries industry.

In particular, construction-related waste disposal industry and salt harvest industry are newly added to the list of the industries open to employment of foreign workers, because working conditions are bad and it is unlikely that foreign workers can be replaced by local workers in the two industries.

For the construction industry, from 2009, employment license system is operating to put a cap on the number of ethnic Koreans employed in the construction industry in a view to protect local jobs. The government decided to reduce the number of ethnic Koreans employed in construction industry by 10,000 from 65,000 in 2011 to 55,000 in 2010 on account of economic slump and deteriorated employment situation for local daily workers in construction industry.

The government will set a quota for foreign workers on the quarterly basis in 2011 and in particular, 75% of the quota will be used for early allocation in the first half of 2011 when the demand for workforce by enterprises concentrates.

Employment and Labor Minister Bahk Jae-wan said, “As the demand for workforce by enterprises rushes in at the beginning of the year, the workforce introduction plan for 2011 was concluded three months earlier than this year’s to help enterprises to better use foreign workforce.” He also added, “The government will flexibly respond to the total number of foreign workers to be introduced this year, monitoring future supply and demand of workforce, state of undocumented workers, etc. and considering suggestions from the business circle to adjust the quota.”