Korea revises visa rules to secure more foreign workers for shipbuilders

South Korea

A total of 4,428 skilled foreign shipyard workers will be granted greater job opportunities at 335 small businesses partnering with seven local shipbuilding and marine companies, as the government eases rules on the E-7 visa, Tuesday. Eligible are welders, painters, electrical engineers and plant engineers.

The measure will be implemented at the request of local shipbuilders and municipalities in the country’s southeastern coastal regions, prompted by a short-term, acute workforce shortage amid a rapid recovery in global shipping demand recently. This is a much-awaited rebound momentum for Korean shipbuilders whose global top status was lost due to years of an industry-wide slowdown.

Data from Korea Offshore Shipbuilding Association (KOSHIPA) showed that the number of workers in the shipbuilding industry more than halved over the past eight years to 92,000 last year, down from 203,000 in 2014 when the industry was booming. The association said the industry will be 9,500 workers short in September since local firms will begin processing advance shipbuilding orders from the first half of this year.

Holders of the E-7 visa can work at state-run or private organizations if they have skills and knowledge related to activities designated by the justice minister.

The ministries said it abolished a quota system whereby only up to 600 welders and 300 painters were allowed to work in Korea. But the number of E-7 visa holders in the industry will be limited to 4,428, a 20 percent ceiling to protect the job security of their 22,142 local peers.

Eligibility requirements will be eased to allow qualified welders and electricians to land jobs without experience in related fields, a rule that had previously been granted only to painters.

The visa holders will be provided with assistance from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), mostly with learning the Korean language, culture and current social issues.

The government expects the revision will lead to higher job opportunities in the industry for a large number of qualified workers with solid communication skills and the ability to settle in a foreign country.

“The new rule will not only help the industry in finding workers but also universities in need of international students amid a rapidly decreasing number of local students,” a trade ministry official said.

“We will strengthen monitoring and supervision of irregularities involving visa stays, among those who are suspected of abusing the immigration system so as to help increase the effectiveness of the revision.”

Companies welcomed the rule. “The rule will contribute to mitigating the labor shortage in the industry, thereby helping local businesses regain the global top market player status,” said a spokesperson for a local shipbuilder.

Source: Korea Times

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