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South Korea halves workers in first half

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Labour minister Ith Sam Heng and South Korean ambassador to Cambodia Oh Nak-young. Labour Ministry

South Korea halves workers in first half

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the South Korean government will fulfil 50 per cent of its quota of Cambodian applicants for jobs in the country in the first half of the year, officials said.

In a Facebook post on March 15, Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng said South Korea’s Ministry of Employment and Labour would accept applications from 22,697 Cambodian migrant workers under its Employment Permit System (EPS) for this year.

“The total number of migrant workers in 2021 permitted to apply is 22,697. Of this, 16,261 are for the industrial sector; 5,778 in the agriculture and livestock sector; and 658 in the construction sector,” the post said.

Sam Heng hoped to receive additional quota after the Covid-19 situation subsides.

In February, Cambodia and South Korea signed a memorandum of understanding on sending migrant workers to the country under the sixth EPS. For more than 10 years, nearly 70,000 migrant workers have been sent to South Korea under the EPS scheme.

Dy The Hoya, project officer for labour rights organisation Central, said sending migrant workers to South Korea was a good process that would provide opportunities for most Cambodians compared to sending them to other countries. Despite the good process, The Hoya expected the two governments to pay more attention to worker conditions.

“The system of protecting migrant workers’ rights and working conditions as wells as wages and accommodation has problems. There seems to be accommodation shortages and we are seeing [reported] deaths.

“So, the system needs to be improved. Their safety must be protected in the workplace and accommodation,” he said.

Besides, The Hoya urged the government to examine how migrant workers were spending money until they get jobs in South Korea, because they have reportedly spent much in the process.

Labour ministry spokesman Heng Sour told The Post on March 16 that apart from receiving the quota from South Korea, Cambodia had also requested the Thai side to facilitate prices and services for migrant workers working there as services were costly.

From January 15 to February 13 this year, foreign migrant workers who have registered with Thailand’s labour ministry numbered 654,864, of whom 203,679 are Cambodian. Of the 203, 679 Cambodian workers, 180,476 have worked under employers while 23,203 others worked without ones and have had their visas renewed to work and reside there legally.

Loeng Sophon, a Thailand-based project officer for Central, urged the Cambodian government to negotiate on working conditions with the Thai side so that Cambodian migrant workers there can receive good working conditions similar to those in South Korea.

He added that Cambodian migrant workers in some countries are facing unemployment and their visas had expired. They have no ability to renew their visas because of the high price.

“In mid-2020, migrant workers’ visas expired, and visa renewals were complicated and costly. For example, in Thailand it costs from less than 14,000 to 15,000 baht ($455 to $487).

“Some workers have also lost their income, so they had no money to renew their visa and decided to return to Cambodia,” he said.

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