Foreign workers making more than in the pastForeign labor, once considered cheap, is no longer the case.
A joint study released Wednesday by the Ministry of Justice and Statistics Korea found that wages of foreign workers are rising, and while most still work in factories as low-skill laborers, their job conditions have improved.
As of May this year, foreign workers in Korea who were making 2 million won ($1,850) or more a month accounted for 57.3 percent of all foreign workers. That is an improvement of 10.8 percentage points from last year.
About 10.4 percent of all foreign workers made more than 3 million won a month, while 46.9 percent made between 2 million and 3 million won, an improvement of 21.4 percentage points from last year.
Those who made between 1 million and 2 million won made up 38.7 percent, or 309,000 workers. The figure is a 1.7 percentage point drop from last year, suggesting wages are going up.
As of May, there were 1.27 million foreigners older than 15 living in Korea, a 6.5 percent increase from last year.
Men accounted for the majority with 55.1 percent, while women accounted for 44.9 percent.
About 4 percent of the foreigners in Korea have adopted Korean nationality in the past five years, but they were still included in this survey.
Foreigners who do not hold Korean nationality had an employment rate of 68.1 percent, while foreigners with Korean nationality had an employment rate of 64.1 percent. The overall number of foreigners employed fell 0.1 percent from last year.
Among foreigners, Korean-Chinese (Koreans who were born in China), accounted for the most at 43.7 percent, followed by Vietnamese with 7.9 percent and Chinese with 6 percent.
Even the Korean-Chinese topped the lists among those that changed their nationality to Korean, accounting for 37.6 percent followed by Vietnamese with 33.7 percent.
By industry, 45.7 percent worked in manufacturing, while 18.5 percent worked in wholesale, retail, lodging and restaurants.
A majority of foreign workers, 71.7 percent, said they were treated equally as their Korean coworkers on the number of hours they work, 60.4 percent on wages and 72.7 percent on workload.
But 20.3 percent still said they were getting paid less than Koreans, while 16 percent said they were getting more work than them.
BY LEE HO-JEONG [firstname.lastname@example.org]