Number of foreign employees in Korea hits record high

2023.12.19 12:39:01 | 2023.12.19 13:21:16

[Photo by Han Joo-hyung]이미지 확대

[Photo by Han Joo-hyung]

The number of foreign (or non-Korean) workers is almost at one million in South Korea, with the number of workers and residents from outside the country, aged 15 and above and staying in Korea for 91 days or more, hitting an all-time high in 2023 to date.

According to the 2023 Immigrant Residence and Employment Survey results released by Statistics Korea on Monday, the number of foreign workers in the nation was 923,000 as of May 2023, an increase of 80,000, or 9.5 percent, compared to the previous year. If this trend continues, the number is likely to surpass one million in early 2024.

The number of foreign residents was 1.43 million, an increase of 129,000, or 9.9 percent, from last year and the highest number recorded since statistics were first compiled in 2012.

Analysis suggests that this increase is largely due to the government’s policy, with the Yoon Suk Yeol administration acting since 2022 to alleviate the widespread labor shortage in small-scale manufacturing, agriculture and livestock, and the service industry. The measures involved a significant expansion of the number of non-professional foreign workers admitted into the country with an E-9 visa.

In terms of the workers’ qualifications, non-professional workers who entered Korea with E-9 visas accounted for 291,000, or 29.1 percent of all foreign workers, a significant increase from last year’s 24.8 percent. Compared to the years between 2021 and 2022, overseas Korean workers with F-4 visas outnumbered E-9 workers, but the 2023 survey indicated a reversal of that trend.

“There was a significant increase in E-9 visa holders and international students as the COVID-19 pandemic subsided, with the number of non-professional workers topping 60,000,” Statistics Korea senior official Lim Kyung-eun said.

By Moon Ji-woong and Chang Iou-chung

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