[EDITORIALS]Act now on alien workersThe deadline for the exit of foreign workers overstaying their visa is August 31. But the National Assembly approval of a bill establishing a permit system for alien laborers seems unlikely during the current legislative session. If the bill is not passed, we face the chaos of the forced deportation of foreign workers. The Environment and Labor Committee has failed to send the bill to the sub-committee for deliberation. A situation in which foreign workers will be deported and small and medium businesses will suffer from a labor shortage is about to unfold.
We have asked the government to implement a work permit system to solve the problems of foreign industrial trainees. If the permit system were introduced, the problem of illegal stays and the shortage of workers would be resolved. Moreover, both parties pledged to introduce such a bill during last presidential campaign.
But the Grand National Party opposed the bill, citing small- and medium-sized businesses’ worries over the burden of higher wages. If the system were established, however, wages would be decided though competition among foreign workers before they enter Korea. A labor market overflowing with manpower would emerge, holding wages at a manageable level. After Singapore and Hong Kong turned to a permit system, wages for foreign workers fell. According to a survey by the Korea Labor Institute, more than 90 percent of small- and medium-sized companies prefer a work permit system, under which they could hire foreign workers legally and without disruption.
The political parties must pass the bill as they promised. Abandoning a national agenda without reason is tantamount to neglect of duty. The government should draw up plans to cope with the situation if the bill is not passed. Deportation of 200,000 people is not an easy job. The deadline was extended twice; deportations cannot be avoided forever. If they take place, service sector workers should go first to ease the shock on manufacturers. Increasing the number of foreign trainees, which stands at 40,000, can be considered. Economic fallout must be minimized.