The Korea Herald


4 in 5 foreign employees paid less than W3m

By Kim Yon-se

Published : Dec. 21, 2021 - 17:19

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A job fair for foreign students, hosted by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, is held in Seoul in October 2021. (Kotra) A job fair for foreign students, hosted by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, is held in Seoul in October 2021. (Kotra)

SEJONG -- Almost 4 in every 5 foreign salaried workers in South Korea were found to be earning less than 3 million won ($2,500) a month, state data showed Tuesday.

According to Statistics Korea and the Korea Immigration Service, around 811,000 foreigners were employed here this year, up 0.9 percentage point compared to the previous year.

Of them, the portion of foreign employees whose monthly wage stayed under 3 million won reached 78.1 percent, or 633,000 people, this year.

While 52.2 percent of the 811,000 foreign workers, or 423,000, were paid between 2 million and 3 million won, the monthly wage for 21.5 percent of the workers, or 174,000, stood at 1 million to 2 million won. Some 4.4 percent were paid less than 1 million won.

Nonetheless, the portion of those with monthly pay of 3 million won or over increased by more than 5 percentage points on-year to 21.9 percent of the total or 177,000 workers.

The statutory minimum wage was set at 1.82 million won a month as of 2021, while there have been pros and cons over application of the rule for both Korean and foreign employees.

The number of foreigners in unemployed status recorded 54,300 this year, down 21 percent from 69,500 in 2020, when COVID-19 dealt a severe blow to the local hiring market.

But the number of “economically inactive” foreign population increased by 1.9 percent, or 8,000, on-year to 422,000. The main reason for them being away from work was to take care of children and the household.

According to Statistics Korea, the nation had 1.33 million foreigners, aged 15 or over, living here as of May 2021. Three in five foreigners, or 60.9 percent, were found to have spouses in Korea or overseas.

Like the recent demographic change among Korean nationals, the foreign population declined in Seoul -- by 1.8 percent on-year to 298,000 -- and increased in Gyeonggi Province -- by 1.7 percent to 472,000.

The Daejeon-Sejong-Chungcheong provinces area took up the next portion as residences of foreigners with 143,000 people, followed by the Busan-Ulsan-South Gyeongsang Province with 130,000.

By age, those in their 30s made up the largest portion at 28.3 percent. The next on the list were those aged between 15-29 at 26.3 percent, those in their 50s at 16.5 percent and those aged in their 40s at 16.1 percent.

By nationality, Chinese nationals of Korean descent accounted for the largest percentage with 38.4 percent. Among others were Vietnamese with 13.2 percent and Chinese with 9.5 percent.

Men outnumbered women by 740,000 versus 591,000 among foreign residents. In contrast, the female population among Koreans has recently overtaken the male population, according to the Ministry of Interior and Safety.

By Kim Yon-se (