The South Korean government has announced a significant policy shift aimed at addressing labor shortages in the hospitality sector. Starting next year, foreign workers will be permitted to join the workforce in hotels and resorts across the country. This move comes in response to the persistent challenges faced by these industries in finding an adequate number of employees.
The initiative will initially focus on employing foreigners for roles such as cleaners and kitchen assistants. To kickstart this effort, a pilot program will be rolled out in key regions like Seoul, Busan, Gangwon, and Jeju, strategically targeting areas with high tourist influxes. Companies can begin applying for employment permits as early as April next year, with an allocated quota of approximately 13,000 foreign workers for the service industry in 2023. Moreover, an additional flexible quota of up to 20,000 workers will be available if there's a demand.
In a bid to expand the eligible countries under the Non-Professional Visa (E-9) program, South Korea is set to include Tajikistan as the 17th country eligible for this visa category. Tajikistan underwent rigorous assessments that evaluated various criteria including infrastructure, education, selection processes, and measures to prevent illegal stays. This expansion signifies the first inclusion of a new country in eight years, opening doors for Tajik workers to contribute to South Korea's labor force starting in 2025. The Employment Permit System, established in 2004, enables the government to regulate quotas and determine industries that can hire foreign workers, with plans to accommodate up to a record high of 165,000 E-9 visa holders next year in response to the pressing labor shortages.