The slump in the domestic construction and manufacturing industries has been found to be affecting the job market for foreigners in Korea.
Statistics Korea released the employment data for foreign immigrants in 2019 on Dec. 19, showing that the number of employed foreigners totaled 863,000 as of May, down 21,000 persons (2.4 percent) from the previous year. The decrease was the sharpest since the 4.3 percent drop in 2013. The number of unemployed foreigners grew by 6,000 (12.3 percent) to record 50,000 for the first time since the related statistics had been collected in 2012.
The total number of resident foreigners increased by 22,000 (1.7 percent) to 1.32 million while the number of economically active population rather decreased by 16,000 (1.7 percent) to 914,000.
The decrease in the number of economically active foreigners and employed foreign laborers is attributable to the decrease in the number of foreigners with working visit visas and sluggish construction, and mining and manufacturing sectors. The number of foreigners who visited Korea with working visit visas this year declined by 9,000 (4.3 percent).
Working visit visas are normally acquired by the Korean Chinese, most of whom are statistically counted as economically active population or the number of employees. The increase in foreign residents in Korea, however, is mostly led by foreign students in Korea, who rose by 22,000 (18 percent) this year.
Of the foreign employees, those with working visit visas fell by 12,000. In the meantime, the number of foreign students in Korea rose by 3,000. As for employed foreigners by industry, foreigners in “construction,” and “mining and manufacturing” sectors dropped by 16,000 (14.2 percent) and 5,000 (2.3 percent), respectively. These two sectors originally have a high proportion of foreign laborers but have been recently stuck in slump.
As for the employed foreigners by employment status, the number of temporary and daily workers dwindled by 20,000. Those who responded to earn less than two million won (US$1,700) for monthly wages accounted for 32.4 percent, while more than two million for 67.6 percent. Comparing to monthly wages they had earned before entering Korea, 78.8 percent of the respondents said they earned more in Korea while mere 6.4 percent responded the other way round.