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Human Rights Series 1st: Non-Registered Workers in Jeju Island

최종 수정일: 2023년 8월 18일

March 21, 2023

by Sung Jae Ahn

(Translation into Chinese: Soohyun Kim)

Source: Voices of Jeju

Jeju Island has a demographic with a high percentage of non-registered foreign workers. According to a study report by the Korean Immigration Association (2018), 25.8% of the labor force in rural areas of Jeju are foreign workers, and 62.8% of them are unregistered.




The cause of this issue is the "Jeju visa-free entry system," which only applies to Jeju Island in South Korea.


But why do foreign workers use the Jeju visa-free entry system instead of the proper employment systems? Two types of foreign worker employment systems exist: a one-year employment permit system and the three-to-five-month seasonal worker system. The two systems work in a straightforward manner, as you can tell by the naming of the systems. Foreign workers are permitted to work for the specified amount of time mentioned in the system’s name itself. The important part to note is that there is a minimum three-month cutline for employing foreign workers, regardless of the system used.


However, because the Jeju farming industry is centered on fruit trees and field crops, which requires labor for only a day at the shortest and two months at the longest, it is difficult for crop farmers to use one of the two employment systems. To avoid this problem and to increase their chances of being employed, foreign workers enter Jeju as unregistered laborers through the Jeju visa-free entry system.

In addition, employers prefer unregistered foreign workers due to their low labor costs. The employment systems’ complex application process also contributes to the increased demand for unregistered foreign workers.


The cheap wages of unregistered foreign workers benefit the Korean economy by maintaining the unfavored sectors of agriculture, fishing, and industry. But at the same time, unregistered foreign workers are often excluded from many social welfare systems that generally cover registered workers. Workers excluded from legal protections and social services are left vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. In this article, we will explore such challenges that unregistered foreign workers encounter.



Legal Protection, Mistreatment


One of the biggest problems that unregistered foreign workers experience is the lack of legal protection. Many employers hire unregistered foreign workers illegally and refuse to pay minimum wage, provide insurance, or even ensure safe working conditions. These workers are very likely to be subject to various forms of abuse, such as forced labor or human trafficking. These conditions leave unregistered foreign workers in a precarious situation, as they cannot report their employers to the authorities without the risk of being deported.



Healthcare


Another problem facing unregistered foreign workers is the lack of access to healthcare. Non-registered foreign workers are not eligible for the Korean National Health Insurance system, meaning they must pay for medical treatment out of pocket. It can be prohibitively costly, leaving these individuals without adequate healthcare.



Language Barrier


Unregistered foreign workers also face a language barrier. As many of them do not speak Korean, they may have difficulty gaining access to basic services, such as legal support, healthcare, or even housing.


The important issue regarding the welfare and human rights of unregistered foreign workers on Jeju Island requires urgent attention. A new employment system that targets the specific case of Jeju Island is needed to regulate employers, provide affordable healthcare, improve language support, and strengthen legal protection for unregistered foreign workers. In doing so, it will ultimately create a more equitable and just society for all.



人权系列1: 济州岛的非注册劳动者

济州岛人口中非注册外国劳动者的比例很高。根据韩国移民协会的研究报告 (2018年), 济州农村地区的劳动力中有 25.8% 是外国人,其中 62.8% 是未登记的。


这个问题的原因是“济州岛免签入境制度”,这个制度只适用于韩国的济州岛。

但为什么外国劳动者使用济州免签入境制度而不是正当的就业制度?现在在韩国有两种类型的外国劳动力就业制度:一种是一年就业许可制度,另一种是三至五个月的季节性制度。这两种制度的工作方式非常简单,从制度的命名中可以看出这一点。允许外国劳动者在制度名称本身提到的指定时间内工作。需要注意的重要部分是,无论哪一种制度,雇用外国劳动者的最少期限是三个月。


由于济州农业以果树和大田作物为主,一般最短仅需一天、最长仅需两个月的劳动,因此农户们很难使用现存的两种雇佣制度。为了避免这个问题并增加就业机会,外国劳动者通过济州免签入境制度以未注册劳工进入济州。


此外,由于劳动力成本低,雇主更喜欢未注册的外国劳动者。复杂的就业制度申请程序也导致对未注册外国劳动力的需求增加。


未注册外国劳动者的廉价工资使韩国经济受益。但与此同时,未注册的外国劳动者不能得到合法的社会福利保障。他们很容易受到剥削和虐待。在这篇文章中,我们将探讨未注册的外国劳动者所遇到的这些困难。


法律保护,虐待


未注册的外国劳动者遇到的最大问题之一是缺乏法律保护。许多雇主非法雇用未注册的外籍劳动者,拒绝支付最低工资、拒绝提供保险,甚至拒绝提供确保安全的工作条件。这些外国劳动者很可能会受到各种形式的虐待,例如强迫劳动或人口贩卖等等。这些状况使未注册的外国劳动者处于不稳定的境地。如果这些外国劳动者想向当局举报他们的雇主,会冒有被驱逐出境的风险。


医疗


未注册的外国劳动者面临的另一个问题是很难获得医疗。未注册的外国劳动者不符合韩国公民健康保险制度的条件,这意味着他们必须自掏腰包支付医疗费用。在没有健康保险的情况下,医疗费用一般高得惊人,使这些外国劳动者望而却步。


语言障碍


未注册的外国劳动者还面临着语言障碍的问题。由于许多外国劳动者不会说韩语,因此他们在获得基本服务上面临很大的困难,例如法律支持、医疗、甚至住房等方面。

济州岛未注册外国劳动者的福利和人权等重要问题急需大家的关注。需要一个针对济州岛具体情况的新就业制度来规范雇主,给外国劳动者提供负担​​得起的医疗,改善语言支持服务,并加强对未注册外国劳动者的法律保护。这样做的话,最终将会给所有人创造一个更加公平和公正的社会。


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