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Employment and Labor Minister has meeting with ambassadors of 16 sending countries under EPS

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Mar. 29, 2017


Employment and Labor Minister Lee Ki-kweon had a meeting with the ambassadors of the 16 countries* sending their workers to Korea under the Employment Permit System (EPS) at the Korea Press Center on March 29th (Wed.) at 11:00 a.m. At the meeting, the Minister asked the governments of those countries to cooperate to reduce illegal stays of foreign workers and improve their sending systems.


* Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Mongolia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, China, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Cambodia, Nepal, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, East Timor, Laos


In particular, with the sojourn period of re-entrants* due to expire this year for the first time ever, MOEL requested the sending countries to come up with government-level measures to help those re-entrants return to their home countries voluntarily. It also explained its plan to expand the point-based selection program designed to bring in excellent foreign workers.


* Re-entrants refer to foreign workers who re-entered Korea either through the re-entry system for committed foreign workers, i.e. those who have never changed workplaces during their sojourn period of four years and ten months, or through the re-entry system for foreign workers who have passed the special Korean language test, and have worked in Korea for another four years and ten months since their re-entry, bringing their total period of sojourn to a maximum of nine years and eight months.


At the meeting, MOEL released the results of its comprehensive monitoring  across all stages of the sending process, including the selection and admission of foreign workers, their stay in Korea and their return to their home countries, in 2016.


According to the monitoring results, compared to the previous year, the average length of time taken to bring in foreign workers was shortened by about five days, helping to ease labor shortages among SMEs, and the proportion of foreign workers staying illegally in Korea fell to 13%.


*Length of time taken to bring in foreign workers: 67.8 days in 2013 → 68.1 days in 2014 → 63.1 days in 2015 →58.0 days in 2016


* Proportion of foreign workers staying illegally in Korea: 16.9% in 2013 → 15.0% in 2014 → 14.1% in 2015 → 13.9% in 2016


MOEL evaluates each country's sending system every half year. The results of the evaluation made this time will be reflected in the allocation of employment permit quotas to the sending countries in the following year.


MOEL asked the governments of the sending countries to make efforts to promote re-entrants' return to their home countries and explained its policy direction aimed at attracting excellent foreign workers.


This will be the first year in which re-entrants* whose total period of stay in Korea is nine years and eight months will be generated. So MOEL called on the sending countries to make government-level efforts to prevent those re-entrants from settling down permanently in Korea.


* 3,960 re-entrants in 2017 → 8,874 re-entrants in 2018 → 5,720 re-entrants in 2019


Moreover, it has been argued that the Korean language test alone is not sufficient to verify foreign workers' job competencies. Considering this argument, MOEL elaborated on the plan to expand the point-based selection program that comprehensively assesses foreign workers' skills, training, experience, etc*.


* The program will be applied to 9 countries in 2017, 13 in 2018, 16 in 2019 and all of the 16 sending countries in 2019.


If Korea is to bring in excellent foreign workers, the quality of foreign workers needs to be enhanced. In that sense, MOEL asked for the sending countries' understanding and cooperation in improving the selection method in a way that gives preference to foreign workers with better Korean language test scores and higher education.


The Employment Permit System is a system of bringing in low-skilled foreign workers, which has been implemented since 2004 under the Act on the Employment, etc., of Foreign Workers to strike a balance between relieving labor shortages in SMEs and protecting the labor market for native Koreans.


Approximately 280,000 foreign workers are working at about 52,000 SMEs under the Employment Permit System.

Last Modifide Date   :   Tue May 16, 2017
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