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Korean EPS and Growing Joblessness

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By EMN Updated: Aug 02, 2013 12:45 am
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Rebanta K.C

The Employment Permit System (EPS) introduced by the Government of the Republic of Korea has been providing better and largely an equal employment opportunity to Nepali youth in Korea. Under this system, Nepali migrant workers are earning handsome salary money in return of their sweat and blood and contributing significantly to remittance inflow in the country.
The Korean government introduced EPS- the scheme of hiring migrant workers – in 2004 with the aim of addressing the increasing shortage of low-skilled workers needed in the mammoth domestic industry, resolve the distortions in the labor market caused by the industrial trainee system, prohibit the unjust labour discrimination, protect the rights of migrant workers and avoid illegal labor employment and hiring trend in Korea. The EPS system allows the Korean companies to hire foreign migrant workers legally in five business sectors namely – manufacturing, construction, agriculture and livestock farming, offshore and coastal fishing, and services (restaurant, business support, social welfare, cleaning, nursing, house work etc).The Korean government has signed EPS agreements with 15 countries including Nepal. Following the EPS agreement (MoU) signed in 2007 more than 13000 Nepali workers have already entered into Korea after being successful in the Test of Proficiency in Korea (TOPIK) examination held in August 2008 out of 32,000 aspiring youth, followed by 41,000 in 2010, and 51,000 in 2011 in Nepal. The TOPIK examination is jointly conducted by the EPS Nepal and Human Resource Department of Korea, which is considered free and fair.
Prior to the EPS agreement, few manpower companies were involved in sending Nepali workers as the industrial trainee in Korea by charging huge amount (more than US$6000) – way beyond the reach of ordinary Nepali youth. Moreover, some women who entered during that time are still stranded in Korea and they are being assisted by many Nepali Migrant Associations based in Korea.
The Korean government’s new labour hiring policy has made it possible for thousands of aspiring Nepali youth – rich and poor alike – to find fair and equal employment opportunities. The EPS system further guarantees about five-year legal work permit in Korea to migrant workers at minimum labour cost (less than $800) with the same privileges enjoyed by native workers. It also ensures legal job guarantee including the better opportunities to earn lucrative money (minimum $1000 per month), which is almost five times bigger than what an average Nepali worker makes in the Gulf countries.
Despite passing the language test in 2011, the more than half of l1,5500 EPS job aspirants are yet to enter Korea and are desperately waiting for being hired soon. Delay in their settlement is making them increasingly desperate and financial costs are growing. Furthermore, another round of the TOPIK examination is reportedly going to be held soon in Nepal. The early settlement of all successful candidates before holding the TOPIK examination is highly essential. Otherwise, it could invite further trouble in our trouble-ridden country. The effective mobilisation of administrative, political and diplomatic tools for seeking further employment opportunities in Korea for early settlement to EPS job aspirants is so vital at the moment.
The disciplined, dedicated, laborious, honest and hospitable behavior of Nepali migrant workers in Korea is being praised by Korean companies. The continuously increasing demand for hiring Nepali migrant workers from Korea is the testimony of this argument. Sadly, the departure of the successful candidates has become uncertain. Instead the government is reportedly working on another round of TOPIK examination, which is unjust. The political, administrative and diplomatic channels should be used to reach out to the concerned Korean authorities and companies to find jobs to all successful candidates. Only then the new exam should be carried out.
Every year, more than 400,000 mentally and physically sound workforce enters into Nepali labor market. It has posed formidable challenge in absorbing this growing workforce in the national economy. Foreign employment has become only a viable alternative in the short run. Due to lack of investment, advanced technology, modern management skills and technical know-how coupled with poor governance, slow pace of industrialisation, rampant corruption and poor law and order situation has made it difficult to generate huge employment opportunities in the country.
In this context, finding new labour destinations like Korea is highly crucial to absorb the growing workforce and ensure the rights and welfare of Nepali migrant workers abroad. It will further contribute to poverty reduction, national revenue growth, national capital formation, foreign currency earning and transfer of technology and skills to the country. The exploration of new foreign employment opportunities to growing number of workers will also help address problems such as social unrest, robbery, extortion, intimidation, killings, kidnapping and smuggling in the country. The government could further made efforts to find jobs in the countries like Japan, Germany, Hong Kong and Macao by producing technically skilled manpower in the country and effectively directing and mobilising its diplomatic missions abroad along with adequate financial, legal and manpower supports.

The writer is post-graduate from School of Public Policy & Management, South Korea.

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By EMN Updated: Aug 02, 2013 12:45:06 am