More foreign workers are in their 30s, 50s

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More foreign workers are in their 30s, 50s


The number of foreign workers reached an all-time high this year, and more of those workers are in their 30s and 50s, the government said Thursday.

Although the employment rate for foreigners in Korea dropped 0.7 percentage points year-on-year to 67.6 percent as of May, there is a larger pool of foreigners seeking employment, Statistics Korea said. More overseas Koreans, or those with Korean ancestry who grew up abroad, entered the country. Fewer overseas Koreans are looking for work compared to other foreigners.

The number of foreigners in the labor market exceeded 1 million for the first time this year, rising 1.9 percent, or 19,000, year-on-year to 1,005,000. There were 962,000 foreigners working in Korea, which is a 3.7 percent increase over the previous year and a high since 2012, which is when the government started to compile the data in its current form.

“The data shows that there are more foreigners in their 30s and 50s who find jobs in Korea,” said Shim Won-bo, a director at Statistics Korea.

Foreign workers in their 30s rose 6 percent to 206,000, and accounted for 29.2 percent of the foreigners in the country. Those in their 50s grew 5.3 percent to 173,000, and accounted for 18 percent of the total. Foreign workers ages 15 to 29, on the other hand, fell 0.2 percent to 256,000, but still accounted for 26.6 percent of the total.

The employment rate for foreign men was a lot higher than their female counterparts. The employment rate for men was 81 percent, while 50.9 percent of the women were employed.

“A large number of Chinese, including Korean Chinese, are entering the country to find jobs, while those coming from North America continued to decrease,” said Shim.

The number of Korean Chinese rose 0.9 percent to 441,000 of the total foreign workers, and they accounted for 45.9 percent. Vietnamese made up 7.4 percent of workers and non-Korean Chinese comprised 6.6 percent. The population of North American workers fell 14 percent to 45,000.

Most foreign workers are employed in metropolitan Seoul. Data showed that 41.8 percent of foreigners worked in Gyeonggi and Incheon and 21.5 percent worked in Seoul.

The unemployment rate for foreigners in Korea fell 0.7 percentage points to 4.2 percent this year, but the rate still is higher than the nationwide rate of 3.6 percent as of September.

“Many foreigners get jobs through their family members and friends and the number of those who get jobs through the way continues to rise,” said Shim.

According to the data, 41.7 percent of foreigners said they get jobs through family, friends and colleagues, and that figure grew 7.2 percentage points over the year earlier. Another 32 percent of foreigners said they learn about jobs from local media outlets.

Data showed that 86.1 percent of foreigners wanted to stay in Korea after their visas expired. More than 90 percent of those who came to the country by marrying Koreans and getting jobs here said they would stay in the country even after their visas expiration.

Among foreigners who said they wanted to stay longer, 65 percent said they would like to extend their visas and 15.9 percent were interested in permanent resident cards.

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