S. Korea’s SMEs struggle due to shortage of migrant workers

Over half of South Korea’s 1,062 small to medium companies (SMEs) reliant on the foreign workforce are struggling due to a COVID-19-induced shortage of migrant labor.

According to the response to the Korea Federation of SMEs, 52 percent of the local SMEs that applied this year for more foreign workers with E-9 working visas for unprofessional labor complained that a shortage of workers hampered their production.

The pandemic that had restricted entry from overseas, resulting in a shortage of migrant workers.

In the first half of the year, about 2,000 migrant workers with E-9 visas arrived, which is just 7 percent of the ministry’s estimate of workers’ arrivals this year.

The average annual figure is 26,000 from 2015-19.

Since the spread of the coronavirus intensified locally in Mar. 26, South Korea has had zero migrant workers with the said visa.

The firms are so desperate that they are willing to hire more expensive Korean laborers to fill the void, but the positions available are not attractive to Koreans.

It was also suggested that a travel exception be made for some migrant workers to help SMEs cope with their production targets.