Workers advised to take up skills training
Courses pave way for S Korea pay lifts
Unskilled Thai migrants in South Korea are being encouraged to participate in additional skills training offered by Seoul to help secure better jobs and higher pay, the Royal Thai Embassy in Seoul says.
The labour attache at the embassy, Pinyuda Jamjansri, said that out of the 26,011 Thai workers legally working in South Korea, only 517 people entered as skilled migrants.
"The figure is significantly lower than the number of phi noi, or illegal Thai workers in South Korea, whose numbers are estimated to be around 140,000," said Ms Pinyuda.
The majority of Thai workers were employed in the agriculture and farming sector.
"These workers have passed the necessary tests," said Ms Pinyuda.
Unskilled workers aged 39 or younger are usually granted permits, which are valid for a maximum of four years and 10 months. These workers receive the minimum wage and are required to return to Thailand upon the expiry of their permits. To re-enter South Korea, an unskilled worker must re-apply for a new permit.
In contrast, skilled workers with an E7-4 visa, can work for a maximum period of two years, but the contract can be renewed without limit, as long as the worker passes a standardised labour skills test.
Ms Pinyuda said the Thai ambassador to South Korea, Singtong Lapisatepun is also encouraging workers to take up the offer to secure better jobs and higher pay.
The South Korean government sponsors training for a number of skills, including backhoe driving, baking, and language courses, which migrant workers can join free of charge at the weekends.
Trainees are given an ATM card with two million won (about 25,000 baht) to pay for food and travel expenses for the duration of the course.
One of the participants, Jakkrawut Moontha, said that he has been attending a three-month electronics course on Sundays.
"Once I graduate in October, I plan to do the labour skills test, which would allow me to seek out higher-paying jobs," he said.
That said, the chances of successfully applying for an E7-4 visa also hinge on other factors -- such as the applicant's savings, as well as their Korean language proficiency.
Other factors that could hurt an applicant's prospects include the applicant's legal records.
Mr Jakkrawut is confident of his chances because he was recently honoured as an outstading labour volunteer for his work with a local television channel that focuses on migrant workers' communities in South Korea.
Another labour volunteer, Kittikan Jindawong, urged other workers to take up the courses.
"I first came as an illegal migrant in 2001," she said.
"When the authorities announced an amnesty, I signed up for a training course, taking up tiling before reapplying to work."
"Now, I earn more as a skilled worker," said Ms Kittikan.