Korean Economy News
No. of foreign workers in S. Korea up nearly 30% in 6 years

Choi Hee-seok and Lee Eun-joo

The number of foreign workers in South Korea rose nearly 30 percent in the past six years, government data showed Saturday.

According to data from Statistics Korea and Ministry of Justice, a total 884,000 foreigners were employed in the country last year, up 26.7 percent from 186,000 workers in 2012 when the agency began compiling related data. The number of foreign workers stood at 835,000 in 2016 and 834,000 in 2017 before reaching 884,000 last year.

Data also showed that the number of migrant workers including foreigners and naturalized Koreans in the past five years rose to 919,000 last year, up 6,000 from the previous year. The figure excludes those on illegal stay after coming into the country with short stay status.

The wage level of foreign workers has also increased in recent years.

In 2012, 69.6 percent of foreign workers earned in between 1 million won ($888) and 2 million won a month, data showed. Last year, however, 49.5 percent of foreign workers earned in between 2 million won and 3 million won while 12.7 percent more than 3 million won, which indicates more than half earned over 2 million won per month.

Data also showed 35.6 percent of foreign workers were subscribed to employment insurance last year, up 3.1 percentage points from a year earlier, which is significantly lower than that of Korean peers. More than 52 percent of foreign workers did not have employment insurance while 11.8 percent said they were unsure.

The Korean government gives out benefits to workers who had been dismissed according to their unemployment insurance coverage period and rate to help cover minimum living expenses while searching for a new job.

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