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The Current Status of the Immigrant Labor Force and its Policy Tasks

Author Juyeong Kim, Yeong-min Kim, Gyuyong Lee, Seongmin Hong Date 2016.02.01 Page 18
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Changes in the demographic structure resulting from a low birth rate and the aging society are affecting the labor market, and currently it is a huge concern that the supply of workforce would go down in the mid and long term. According to the population estimates, it is expected that the total population would decrease by about 2030, and the economically active population from the age of 15 to 54 has already started to be on the decline. Despite difficulties of the young generation to get a job and women’s relatively low participation in the labor market, small and medium sized enterprises still have a shortage of workers, and in particular the small and medium sized manufacturing companies have more difficulties in securing workforce.
The government changed the existing industrial trainee system to respond to the situation, and has implemented ‘a work permit system’ beginning from 2004 which legitimately allows the employment of foreign workers, thus increasing the importation of foreign workers gradually.
Along with the increasing trend of foreign workers, there are growing concerns over the adverse impact on the labor market and the need for systematic evaluation and improvement of labor importation scheme. Therefore, now it is needed to systematically review and evaluate the employment of the low skilled foreign workers.
In addition, as new products, production methods and advanced technologies have become more important as growth engines for the Korean economy, the role and importance of skilled foreign workers are newly in the spotlight. Through cooperation with skillful foreign workers and aggressive importation of skilled foreign workers, it is expected that those workers’ expertise and technologies would be implemented in Korea. This will be able to respond to the global environment more effectively, having a positive impact on the consistent growth of the Korean economy. The Korean government is suggesting policy measures to import skilled foreign workers more aggressively. Accordingly, now there are growing needs for effective introduction methods and ways for improvement.
In general, in terms of simple labor, we need countermeasures for manpower and reorganization of laws and systems to actively support production activities of small and medium sized enterprises and to strengthen the positive effects of well-educated foreign experts in their specialized fields, while minimizing negative impacts from influx of immigrant workers on employment of local residents as much as possible.
This study separates importation of immigrant labor force into low skilled workers and professionals and then looks into each current state and system. Markets for low skilled workers and professionals are two important pillars of policies for the immigrant labor force, but at the same time from the perspective of the labor market, the two have different characteristics and the government has different posture, so this study explores them separately in a different chapter.
Logically, it would be needed to separately handle policies for mid-skilled immigrant workers but in terms of manpower, the number of mid-skilled workers is still not enough. They enter into Korea through employment license system like low-skilled workers and then change eligibility, or in many cases they become mid-skilled workers after acquiring more skills for companies as a result of working as low-skilled workers or after being included while doing special activities of E-7. Thereby, instead of dealing with them in a separated chapter, this study mentions them when there are related issues concerning low-skilled immigrant workers or well-educated immigrant professionals.
This study aims to find out issues in the importation of immigrant labor forces and offer policy measures by exploring current state of immigrant labor force and analyzing the current policies related to importation of immigrant labor force.
This study analyzes the labor supply of immigrated workers from the viewpoint of the labor market instead of dealing with comprehensive aspects of immigrant policies concerning importation of foreign workers. Therefore, I would like to mention in advance that the policy aspects such as social and cultural integration and immigration policies including families, which are the import part of immigration policies, are beyond the scope of this study.
The structure of this study is as follows: chapter 2 deals with current state of low skilled immigrant labor force related policy aspects, chapter 3 handles current state of immigrant professionals and its policy aspects, chapter 4 suggests examples of Japan and Singapore concerning the current state of immigrant labor force and its policies, chapter 5 explores the fundamental manufacturing industry (Ppuri Industry) as an example of specific industry, and the chapter 6 provides the overall conclusion.