Foreign workers all the rage now, not just in Singapore

HRM 26 Feb 2013

Singapore is not the only Asian country facing a talent shortage – countries like South Korea are starting to tap on a foreign talent pool to plug the gap.

With its ageing population, South Korea has gone from a country where labour was an abundant resource to one seeking foreigners to help run its plants and firms. While its neighbour Japan has largely rejected imported labour as a solution to its ageing workforce, South Korea is starting to accept this change.

In a report by Bloomberg, the number of immigrants has risen sevenfold to 1.5 million since 2000, which is 2.8% of the population. By 2030, immigrants would make up more than six per cent by 2030. “It’s inevitable that we will have to absorb foreign labour to boost our economy,” Choi Kwang Hae, director general at the Finance Ministry, quoted as saying.

A growing number of South Korean exporters are supplementing their ageing workforce with unskilled labour from the region.  “Our factory can’t operate without foreign workers,” said Park Kwang Seo, director at Homyeong Chemical, which supplies packaging to Coca-Cola and coating films to Samsung Electronics. “We need to hire more to meet demand.”  

“We can’t find enough Korean workers, especially young men,” he added. “The quota system on foreign workers is still too rigid.”

To ease the labour shortage, the government recently announced steps to ease work visa and citizenship requirements. The quota for low-skilled workers this year is 62,000, up from 57,000 in 2012.

However, experts say that attitudes from the public have to be changed.

“The country is still highly susceptible to xenophobia,” said Chung Ki Seon, head of research at IOM Migration Research & Training Centre, which studies immigration policies worldwide. “But Japan gives us a clear lesson on what will happen if we keep the door closed.”



Leave your comment
Start a new discussion

HRM Asia forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

Post a Comment
HRM Asia welcomes your contribution. Your IP address is recorded in the event of a complaint.
Name *
Email *
(required, but will not display)
Comment *
Please enter in the numbers in the box left.
You are about to submit your comment. Is it:
  • Professional
  • In your own name or pseudonym, not impersonating someone else
  • Free from rude language
  • Free from advertising
  • If you prefer not to post but are still keen to get your viewpoint across, you can always e-mail the editor.
  • 30 Jul | Frazer Jones - Global HR Search and Recruitment | Singapore
    Front Office Recruiter required to work within a leading Financial Services organisation
    30 Jul | Frazer Jones - Global HR Search and Recruitment | Singapore
    Leading Financial Services Corporation looking to hire a seasoned HR Director
    24 Jul | Frazer Jones Global HR Search & Recruitment | Singapore
    The HR Operations Senior Manager will lead a team on the management of all HR Operations as well as the revamp and improvement of current HR processes ...
    Scouting for High Potentials
    Alvin Chan, Asia HR Director, Celestica, explains the company’s four-prong approach to identifying and accelerating the growth of high-potential employees.
    Talent retention through global mobility
    Unorthodox HR
    The impact of diversity on WSH
    This workshop will help you develop your confidence and skills in giving speeches. You will explore techniques for preparing and delivering talks, as ...
    This informative workshop develops the writing skills you need to make you and your readers’ lives easier
    Nanyang Tecnological University - Nanyang Business School, Open Enrolment Programmes | amyflin@ntu.edu.sg
    Programme is intended for non-finance professionals to interpret financial statements from multiple stakeholder perspective.