Korea to provide support to six sectors faced with severe labor shortages

2023.03.09 12:57:01 | 2023.03.09 12:58:57

[Photo by Lee Chung-woo]이미지 확대

[Photo by Lee Chung-woo]

The South Korean government plans to support industries that are struggling with labor shortages as the country saw 185,000 job vacancies last year.

According to the Ministry of Employment and Labor on Wednesday, the government has designated six industries that are facing challenges in hiring workers and has set up a government-wide framework where relevant government bodies will provide support. The six industries are manufacturing, logistics & delivery, healthcare & welfare, restaurants, agriculture and overseas construction.

As of the third quarter last year, there were a record 185,000 openings in the domestic job market that went unfilled. The rate of vacancy across all job seekers was as high as 15.4 percent.

Employment in the manufacturing industry will be supported by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. As for shipyards, the ministry will help with new intakes, as well as training for existing workers, mainly based on a memorandum of understanding signed between the government and five shipbuilders last month. Also a two-year temporary quota will be introduced for foreign workers, assigning 5,000 workers to shipyards from the 75,000 E-9 visas issued for the entire manufacturing industry.

“Our plan is to provide government aid to young workers mostly in small businesses in ‘root industries’ with a workforce of fewer than 50 people, to motivate quality workers to remain in their jobs for the long term,” an employment ministry official said.

Logistics jobs, as well as jobs at overseas construction sites, will be supported by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. The government plans to seek an “on the road first, qualifications later” approach for platform-based taxi drivers, easing the licensing process around changing to a large or luxury taxi from a mid-sized one. Safety issues concerning drivers with no qualifications will be handled by applying more scrutiny of the driver‘s overall qualifications during the application process, the government said. The “on the road first, qualifications later” approach will only be applied to platform-based drivers, as it is easier to screen and identify drivers on those platforms, the government added.

As for logistics and delivery jobs, government support will be focused on expanding automation facilities to lower each worker’s labor intensity. The government is also reviewing an option to allow H2 visa holders to fill certain positions. As for construction, workers who choose to be sent to a foreign country for a long-term project could be eligible for certain benefits, including special housing, according to the government plan.

[Image source: Gettyimagesbank]이미지 확대

[Image source: Gettyimagesbank]

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs will look into measures to resolve labor shortages at restaurants and in agriculture. The measures the ministry is currently reviewing include an expansion of the pilot program where F4 visa holders are allowed, in specific regions, to work in simple labor jobs, such as a kitchen assistant or restaurant server, as well as extending the hours for part-time employment of D2 student visa holders. Currently, foreign students in Korea to learn the language or for a bachelor’s degree are allowed to work for 20 hours per week, and those for a master’s or a Ph.D program can work for up to 30 hours.

As for the agriculture industry, the government plans to select 4,000 new workers and to provide help, from starting a business to growing the business, to a target of 30,000 young farmers by 2027.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare will focus on elderly care, with a plan this year to come up with measures to hire more care workers and to improve their working conditions. The health ministry is reviewing an option to outsource training and management of care workers to those with at least five years of experience. Revising the ratio of patients or care subjects to care workers from 2.5:1 to 2.3:1 or 2.1:1 is also part of the plan to ease care worker work intensity.

Criticisms have been raised, however, as the government’s overall employment policies are focusing mostly on easing immediate demand by importing labor, rather than providing fundamental solutions. Critics argue that the government need to seek improvements in the work environment, wage structure and in the contractor/subcontractor structure, all the while seeking measures to enhance productivity by fostering new workers.

“Importing workers is a very practical option, but there is a potential side effect if they succeed in developing their job skills but want to switch jobs to different industries, or to return home,” said Lee Eun-chang from the Korea Institute for Industrial Economies & Trade. “How to improve industrial productivity is a key task amid population downsizing.”

By Lee Jin-han and Chang Iou-chung

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