VN workers in S Korea find it much harder to strike it rich, Viet Nam News

SEOUL — Working in the Republic of Korea is a top choice for many Vietnamese labourers. However, the current financial crisis may force workers to rethink their choices.

Financial difficulties and tight bank loans have affected many Korean enterprises, particularly small-and medium-sized business that employ up to 80 per cent of imported workers, including Vietnamese labourers.

Lured by an advertised income of over US$1,000 per month, exported workers have dreams of striking it rich by signing a three-year contract with Korean companies. These hopes might have come true if the economy had not been plunged into a state of meltdown.

Before the crisis, Vietnamese workers got around $850 per month, but could usually earn up to $1,200 by working overtime.

Presently many businesses are working at just 50-70 per cent of their capacity, so even local workers are facing the possibility of losing their jobs. In addition, the devaluation of the South Korean won to the US dollar has decreased workers’ income by roughly 30 per cent.

Nguyen Ngoc Quynh, director of the Overseas Labour Supply Department under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA), said the ministry had asked the Korean Ministry of Labour to support Vietnamese workers during this difficult period.

Protected

The Korean labour ministry is responsible for monitoring enterprises to ensure they pay workers’ salaries and protect employee rights in case of bankruptcy.

Nonetheless, workers entering the South Korean under the employment permit system (EPS) are lucky since they are protected under law as Korean workers.

There are about 16,000 skilled Vietnamese workers remaining in Korea illegally after the completion of their contracts.

These workers tend to frequently change their vocation and accommodation, which makes it difficult for the labour managing board to gather information on them. Most Vietnamese work at small enterprises with less than 30 employees.

But many of these ‘roaming workers’ have unstable jobs and risk being maltreated by employers since they have no contract.

Without ID, insurance or welfare, they often have difficulty caring for their families’ health and are subject to arrest and deportation.

Korean authorities recently decided to lay heavy fines on illegal workers and their employers. Vietnamese agencies are helping this effort by encouraging illegal workers to return home and educating new workers about their responsibility to fulfil their contracts.

On Vietnamese Labour Day in South Korean in August, MoLISA Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan called on workers to work hard and obey Korean laws in order to keep opportunities open for future workers. — VNS

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