Situation of Indonesian, Vietnamese workers in Korea to be discussed at ILO meeting

The recruitment process for Indonesian and Vietnamese migrant workers in the Republic of Korea will be discussed at two international meetings being organized by the ILO and the Government of Korea.

Press release | BANGKOK | 28 March 2008

BANGKOK(ILO News): The recruitment process for Indonesian and Vietnamese migrant workers in the Republic of Korea will be discussed at two international meetings being organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Government of Korea. 

The two national workshops – one in Indonesia and one in Vietnam - will discuss ways of making the recruitment and selection processes used in Korea more efficient and transparent, and to find remedies to the problems Indonesian and Vietnamese workers commonly confront.

With 15,000 workers in Korea , Vietnamese are the largest group of foreign workers in the country. About 6,000 Indonesians are also employed in Korea (both figures from 2007).

The meetings, on the “Improvement of the Recruitment and Preparation of Migrant Workers to Korea ” will take place at the Aryaduta Hotel in Jakarta on Saturday 29 to Sunday 30 March. , and at the Cong Doan Hotel in Hanoi on Tuesday 1 to Wednesday 2 April.

Discussions in the workshops will focus on improving the Employment Permit System (EPS), the government-to-government hiring scheme used by the Korean government to bring foreign workers into the country.   The EPS was introduced in 2003 and replaced the widely-criticized Industrial Trainee System (ITS) as Korea ’s main mode of admitting foreign workers.  The ITS, which was discontinued in 2007, was criticized for not giving foreign workers enough rights, including the right to adequate compensation., and was believed to have resulted in widespread irregular migration and the violation of migrant workers’ rights. By contrast the EPS in theory gives foreign workers the same rights as Korean workers, including the right to join a Korean trade union and access to insurance and pension schemes.

A 2007 survey commissioned last year by the ILO and Human Resources Department of Korea found that of all the workers surveyed, Indonesian and Vietnamese workers spent the most on recruitment, including pre-departure training, medicals, passports, visas, and air tickets.  On average, the Indonesians spent US$3,000 and the Vietnamese US$1,700. Indonesian and Vietnamese workers are also the most likely to rely on recruitment agencies – 36 per cent and 35 per cent respectively.

The survey also found that the language is a major hurdle for the workers in Korea , with about 90 per cent of the workers from each country saying more time pre-departure should be devoted to learning Korean.  Many said as a result of inadequate language skills, they have difficulty making their complaints understood by their employers.

About half of the Indonesian and Vietnamese workers said that they had had some reason to complain about their work or treatment.  Still, about 50 per cent of the Indonesians and 40 per cent of the workers from Vietnam said they would be willing to spend more time and money on training if they could stay in Korea  more than 3 years, (the maximum currently allowed).

“These workshops bring to the same table the people at the forefront of managing labour migration in Korea and its sending countries,” said Manolo Abella, Chief Technical Adviser of the ILO’s Asian Programme on the Governance of Labour Migration. “This ensures specific concerns are addressed. Hopefully the end result will be reduced recruitment costs, better matching of workers’ skills and employers needs, and better working conditions for migrant workers”.

The workshops are being funded by the ILO-Korea Partnership Programme.

For more information please contact:

Manolo Abella
Chief Technical Advisor, EU Migration Project
ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific 
Tel: +6687 496 2521

Sophy Fisher
Regional Information Officer
ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Tel: +662 288 2482