(Yonhap Feature) S. Korean farmers struggle from labor shortage as pandemic disrupts migrant work system

Asia's Tech News Daily

By Chang Dong-woo

ANSEONG, South Korea, Oct. 17 (Yonhap) — Koh Jin-taek is proud of having built a small but stable farming business in Anseong, 77 kilometers south of Seoul, over the past two decades producing primarily lettuce, chicory and other types of leafy vegetables.

He currently owns 44 vinyl greenhouses and had supplied nearly 10,000 kilograms of produce monthly to food companies, with annual sales climbing as high as 800 million won (US$680,000).

Things looked fairly bright for 53-year-old until COVID-19 landed in South Korea last year.

Koh now has become increasingly doubtful of whether he can maintain his business going forward.

“We have to supply at least 9,000 kg of vegetables each month to break even and save some money. Last month, we were only able to sell 4,800 kg,” Koh said.

(Yonhap Feature) S. Korean farmers struggle from labor shortage as pandemic disrupts migrant work system

One of the main reasons for such difficulties is the shortage of affordable labor.

The pandemic led to a sharp drop in the number of migrant workers in South Korea, driving up their wages. Koh’s once nine-person workforce was recently slashed down to five as four abruptly left for higher paying jobs.

South Korea runs three types of migration labor schemes under which workers from 16 Asian countries are allowed to work in fields of low-skilled manual work, such as fishing, farming and manufacturing under E-8, E-9 and C-4 visas.

The programs are intended to provide local farmers with cheap labor while offering comparatively high wages for overseas workers who would have earned much less for the same job back in their home countries.

In 2019, nearly 9,000 workers from Asian countries, including Cambodia, Pakistan, China and Bangladesh, were hired here through the program. But due to strengthened border control against the pandemic, the number plunged 82 percent to 1,590 from January to August of this year.

This continued shortage of migrant workers is creating a supply-demand imbalance of farm labor, leading to a surge in hiring costs.

(Yonhap Feature) S. Korean farmers struggle from labor shortage as pandemic disrupts migrant work system

This phenomenon came as the local farming sector is dependent on foreign work more than ever. Young South Koreans are increasingly shunning manual labor, such as farming and fishing, and choosing to live in cities with higher-paying jobs.

Koh says he finds himself constantly checking his savings to see whether he is able to shoulder the sharp increase in labor costs due to the shortage of migrant workers since the pandemic.

The fast aging of the farming population isn’t helping either. Last year, people over the age of 65 accounted for 41.7 percent of all farm households, up 3.9 percentage points from 2015.

A large number of anecdotes suggest that workers who arrive in South Korea are reportedly offered as high as double the daily wages as those before the pandemic.

Koh said his town’s agency that matches farmers with migrant workers recently increased the daily wage up to 120,000 won from 80,000 won.

Koh said he had to destroy 30 vinyl greenhouses worth of goods this year. He simply was not able to harvest the perfectly tradable vegetables due to the labor shortage.

(Yonhap Feature) S. Korean farmers struggle from labor shortage as pandemic disrupts migrant work system

Rep. Ahn Ho-young of the ruling Democratic Party, a member of the parliament’s labor committee, pointed out in a recent government audit session that the steep hikes in costs are driving local farmers to resort to employing undocumented workers.

On the consumer side of things, the labor shortage has ended up weakening the overall output of farm produce. This has led to hikes in food prices and has added inflationary pressure to the economy.

In the second quarter, South Korea ranked third among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the growth rate of food prices.

Despite seeing higher wages, migrant workers themselves too aren’t necessarily welcoming of the situation.

“Work is more difficult and time consuming as we are constantly understaffed,” said Sreychom Mao, a 30-year-old worker from Cambodia.

(Yonhap Feature) S. Korean farmers struggle from labor shortage as pandemic disrupts migrant work system

Some farming communities are demanding that farmers be included in the government program that compensates small and midsized businesses for damage caused by adhering to social distancing rules.

To help out, most counties across the nation offer support, such as discounts for renting farm equipment, while some also send their employees in groups to local farms to help out with the manual labor.

But such peripheral actions are nowhere near the amount of help and attention farmers are requesting.

Koh hopes that the central and local government can offer subsidies so that farmers are able to hire South Korean workers, even if higher wages have to be offered.

“If the government provides support, local workers might make the effort to come here,” Koh said.

Farmers will be left with nothing if the financial burden of employing local workers is put solely on farmers themselves, he said.

odissy@yna.co.kr
(END)

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related

OTHER NEWS

Lee pledges to increase budget for startups to 10 tln won

SEOUL, Dec. 8 (Yonhap) — Lee Jae-myung, the presidential nominee of the ruling Democratic Party, said Wednesday he will increase the government’s investment in startups to 10 trillion won (US$8.50 ... Read more »

RBI monetary policy meet today: What to expect

Representative image Before the Omicron variant of COVID-19 took over the epidemiological and markets discourse, there was a reasonable likelihood that the Monetary Policy Committee would signal to the Reserve ... Read more »

Australia weighs central bank digital currency, crypto rules

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) – Australia is weighing plans for a central bank-issued digital currency alongside the regulation of the crypto market as it seeks to overhaul how the nation’s consumers and ... Read more »

Housing prices have markedly stabilized: finance minister

SEOUL, Dec. 8 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s top economic policymaker said Wednesday housing prices have markedly stabilized on the back of housing supply measures, the central bank’s rate hike and ... Read more »

(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 8)

Realizing hydrogen economy: Government’s blueprint is too ambitious to be realistic The government has announced a master plan to transit toward a hydrogen economy by raising the country’s self-sufficiency rate ... Read more »

Export of Russian software up by almost 20% yoy in 2021, says Deputy Prime Minister

Packages of measures aimed at developing the industry are being gradually implemented, Dmitry Chernyshenko said Read more »

Baltic countries starts talks on Russian electricity import increase — operator

According to spokesperson of Estonia’s Elering Ain Koster, Estonia and Latvia earlier reduced the volume of trade with Russia on the basis of Lithuania’s desires Read more »

Settlements with India for weapon supplies are carried out in rubles, rupees

According to Alexander Mikheyev, Rosoboronexport has almost fully abandoned settlement in the US currency Read more »

One of Russia's largest winemakers to export to France

The first batch of wines has been shipped from Fanagoria to the French Auchan retail network Read more »

Economic dynamics in Russia positive in general, says Putin

As the Russian President pointed out, investments were up by 7.6% in first three quarters of this year Read more »

No sun, no stars for six months. How to work and live in the North

The chain of meteorology stations stretches to Chukotka - and at every station people are waiting for the supplies Read more »

Moscow court fines Google over $188,000 in four cases of unlawful content

As of now, Google has been fined a total of 58 mln rubles ($778,890) for the same offense Read more »

Russian cabinet considering Rosneft gas supplies to Europe, says Kremlin

Currently, only Gazprom has the right to export pipeline gas Read more »

LG Energy Solution seeks to raise up to 12.75 tln won in IPO

SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) — Battery maker LG Energy Solution Ltd. is seeking to raise as much as 12.75 trillion won (US$10.8 billion) in what would be South Korea’s largest ... Read more »

Centre disburses Rs 2,071 crore loan for 4,000 odd projects so far under Agriculture Infrastructure fund

The government has so far disbursed Rs 2,071 crore for 4,003 projects under the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said on Tuesday. Tomar, in a written reply ... Read more »

Moneycontrol Pro Panorama | IPOs are flying thick and fast

Dear Reader, A raft of initial public offerings (IPOs) are set to hit the Street this week. Beginning today, one IPO will open for subscription everyday till Friday. Two more public ... Read more »

India exports 9.39 lakh tonnes of sugar so far this marketing year: AISTA

Sugar mills have exported 9.39 lakh tonnes of the sweetener till the first week of December during the ongoing 2021-22 marketing year that started from October 1, and are not ... Read more »

Fed's earlier end to tapering prompts call for Korea to increase dollar reserves

Bank of Korea Governor Lee Ju-yeol speaks during a press conference at its headquarters in Seoul, Nov. 25. Yonhap By Lee Min-hyung Korea should increase its foreign exchange reserves amid ... Read more »

Gov't CPTPP push to drag on until after presidential election

The National Assembly is in a plenary session, during which a bill on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) passed, Dec. 4. Korea Times file Gov’t refuses to broach politically charged ... Read more »

FSS chief calls for strengthened risk management

Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) Governor Jeong Eun-bo, fifth from left, stands next to leaders of the country’s credit finance firms, including the CEOs of KB Kookmin Card, Shinhan Card, Samsung ... Read more »

(2nd LD) Samsung unveils new leadership, replaces all 3 CEOs

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 2, 8-11; ADDS photo)By Woo Jae-yeon SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) — Samsung Electronics Co. on Tuesday replaced all three CEOs in a surprise ... Read more »

China exports rise but growth eases

China's exports rose by double digits in November but growth declined, while imports accelerated in a sign of stronger domestic demand. Exports rose 21.4 per cent over a year earlier ... Read more »

Reserve Bank of Australia keeps unprecedented low cash rate on hold

The Reserve Bank of Australia has kept official interest rates on hold as widely expected but speculation of a 2022 move continues as fixed rate bargains disappear from the market. ... Read more »

China export growth slows in November but imports accelerate

BEIJING (REUTERS) – China’s exports growth lost steam in November, pressured by a strong yuan, weakening demand and higher costs, but import growth accelerated and came in well above expectations, ... Read more »

(LEAD) Samsung unveils new leadership, replaces all 3 CEOs

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in last 7 paras; ADDS photos)By Woo Jae-yeon SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) — Samsung Electronics Co. on Tuesday replaced all three CEOs in a surprise ... Read more »

Samsung Heavy Industries wins 734 bln won orders for 3 LNG carriers

By Nam Kwang-sik SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) — Samsung Heavy Industries Co. said Tuesday that it has bagged two orders worth a combined 734 billion won (US$621 million) to construct ... Read more »

Samsung unveils new leadership, replaces all 3 CEOs

By Woo Jae-yeon SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) — Samsung Electronics Co. on Tuesday replaced all three CEOs in a surprise move that the company said was intended to enhance competitiveness ... Read more »

Korea logs current account surplus for 18th straight month in October

gettyimagesbank South Korea logged a current account surplus for the 18th straight month in October, though the surplus was smaller than the previous month due to increased imports amid high ... Read more »

Over 70 pct of state budget to be frontloaded in first half of next year

SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) — South Korea said Tuesday it has allocated 73 percent of fiscal spending for implementation in the first half of next year in a bid to ... Read more »

(LEAD) S. Korea logs current account surplus for 18th straight month in October

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 5, 9-10) SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) — South Korea logged a current account surplus for the 18th straight month in October, though the surplus ... Read more »

S. Korea logs current account surplus for 18th straight month in October

SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) — South Korea logged a current account surplus for the 18th straight month in October, though the surplus was smaller than the previous month due to ... Read more »

(URGENT) S. Korea logs current account surplus of US$6.95 bln in October: BOK

(END) Read more »

Liquidators called in after collapse of prominent Aussie crypto platform myCryptoWallet

Liquidators have been called in to wind up another prominent Australian crypto trading platform, with furious customers reportedly down thousands of dollars after being unable to access their accounts. Melbourne-based ... Read more »

(EDITORIAL from Korea Herald on Dec. 7)

Burden on future taxpayersLawmakers increase election year budget despite national debt nearing W1,000tr One of the most important roles for the legislature is to scrutinize the administration’s use of taxpayer ... Read more »

Migrants in Australia to be fast-tracked into jobs to fill shortages, Employment Minister Stuart Robert announces

Migrants already in Australia will be fast-tracked into jobs suffering skills shortages in a bid to meet urgent workforce needs. Employment Minister Stuart Robert will announce the plan to “widen ... Read more »

India's Nayara Energy to start polypropylene production jointly with Rosneft

According to the statement, both sides, appreciating the strength of the Indian petrochemical market, agreed to expand collaboration through Russian participation by way of investment, technological and other ways of collaboration in Indian petrochemical sector Read more »

Putin, Modi urge ministries to finalize talks on mutual protection of investments

The long-term target of the trade and economic relationship between the two countries is an increase by 2025 in bilateral trade to $30 bln and in mutual investment to $15 bln Read more »

First reactor pressure vessel dismantled in Sweden, says Rosatom

The work took 13 months Read more »

Nord Stream 2 can be put into operation only after certification — German ministry

Earlier, it was reported that if energy infrastructure operators want to use it before certification is complete, then penalties will be imposed Read more »

(LEAD) Samsung's Lee embarks on trip to UAE, Saudi Arabia to cement networks, seek biz opportunities

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; ADDS photo; ADDS Lee’s remark in 3rd para) SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) — Samsung Group’s de facto leader Lee Jae-yong left for the United Arab Emirates ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic