South Korea to ease migrant worker ban next month to tackle labour crunch

South Korea to ease migrant worker ban next month to tackle labour crunch

People wearing masks walk on a street in downtown Seoul on Saturday. (Reuters photo)
People wearing masks walk on a street in downtown Seoul on Saturday. (Reuters photo)

SEOUL: South Korea is preparing to let more foreign workers return to the country to provide relief to local farms, factories, and construction sites, which heavily rely on migrant labour, after it has limited non-professional working visa issuance for almost two years during a Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Labour Ministry officials on Wednesday, the government is seeking to allow the entry of more foreigners with an E-9 non-professional employment visa, which is issued for those coming to work in the manual labour field, Pulse reported.

The measure is being taken along with the government’s planned shift to the ‘living with Covid-19 scheme’ in November, and more details on the expansion of foreign labour are expected to be announced next month.

E-9 visas were mainly issued to workers from 16 countries, most of them in Southeast Asia, but their entry to Korea was completely prohibited after the pandemic hit the country in early 2020. In response to growing complaints about labour shortages, local authorities lifted the ban on one country in November last year, and on five more in April this year.

Foreign workers are now coming from six countries including Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, but the number of new immigrant workers in South Korea remains down by 90% from the pre-Covid peak in 2019.

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