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75% of restaurant owners face labor shortage

Korea’s foodservice industry faces a labor shortage. (Yonhap)
Korea’s foodservice industry faces a labor shortage. (Yonhap)
Some three-quarters of restaurants say they are experiencing a labor shortage, as young people continue to shun jobs in the service industry while COVID-19 has limited foreign workers from entering the country.

According to a report on the labor shortage in the restaurant industry by the Korea Foodservice Industry Research Institute on Monday, 74.9 percent of 207 restaurant owners polled in a September survey said the worker crunch has worsened.

Only 4.8 percent said the situation had improved and 20.3 percent said there had been no change.

Eighty percent of foreign food restaurants said they were struggling with a lack of workers, followed by Korean restaurants at 77.7 percent and snack restaurants at 53.6 percent.

As to the main reason behind problems in hiring, restaurant owners said, is the complex legal procedure in recruiting foreigners.

Other reasons include difficulty in hiring young people in their 20s and 30s, an aging population, the high intensity of the work and high turnover.

Young people avoid working in restaurants as it often involves grueling shifts on weekends and at night.

Recently, women in their 30s and 40s -- a mainstay for the food service industry -- have been looking for jobs in other fields.

To resolve the staffing shortage, restaurant owners have looked to easing employment requirements for foreigners as the most important measure that needs to be taken.

“A flexible system improvement such as easing foreign worker employment process and extending visas is needed,” said the institute in its report, especially as strict travel restrictions brought by the pandemic have hampered recruitment of foreign workers.

The Ministry of Employment and Labor anticipates normalizing the entry of fully vaccinated foreign workers into the country, starting at the end of this month, to resolve the labor shortage in the food service industry.

By Hong Yoo (