The Ministry of Employment and Labor on Wednesday said it would improve provisions for foreign workers arriving on E-9 visas to help them settle in the country, including not only vocational training but also safety, language and cultural education.
The E-9 visa category is for foreigners workers in "non-professional" jobs such as manufacturing, construction, agriculture and livestock industries.
In addition to the current short-term vocational training, which takes about three days, the Labor Ministry will provide long-term vocational training to enhance E-9 workers’ skills, according to officials.
In the first half of this year, the government plans to conduct pilot vocational training courses for workers in the shipbuilding industry, which is suffering from severe labor shortages and has a high demand for skilled workers. The government will then gradually expand the system to other industries.
The pilot program will involve about 1,000 to 2,000 foreign workers from six major shipbuilding companies, including Hyundai Heavy Industries and Samsung Heavy Industries, who will receive vocational training and industrial safety education over a period of three to four weeks after they enter South Korea. In addition, language and cultural education will also be provided to facilitate a quick adjustment to life in Korea.
The Labor Ministry said it will develop customized training courses for foreign workers, provide accommodation during the training period, and actively support training costs as well as provide a partial salary.
The ministry is also considering benefits to encourage workers to participate in the pilot project, such as lowering the bar to be recognized as long-term workers. E-9 visa holders who are recognized as long-term workers can extend their stay without leaving the country.
Since the second half of 2022, the government approved the entry of some 88,000 foreign workers with E-9 visas to resolve the manpower shortage. This year, about 120,000 people are expected to enter the country on an E-9 visa.
“We will ensure that E-9 foreign workers become essential workers in the industrial field. We hope that vocational training will pave the way for workers to adapt to Korean society, serve for a long time, and contribute to the economic development of Korea and their home countries," said the Labor Minister Lee Jung-sik.