Illegal Immigration Soars After Minimum Wage Hike

      August 27, 2018 12:18

      The number of illegal immigrants has surged since a hefty minimum wage hike was announced in July last year.

      After rising and falling marginally for a decade, the number of illegal immigrants has surged by around 100,000 since July 2017. The Justice Ministry estimates that there were 323,267 illegal immigrants at the end of June this year, up 42 percent on-year.

      The number had been falling slightly until July last year, when the government announced a 16.4-percent minimum wage hike. That seems to have sent the number soaring by 23,000 in the second half of 2017 and around by 72,000 in the first half of this year, when the hike took effect.

      The vast majority came on tourist visas or under a short-term visa waiver and ended up staying. The number of illegal aliens has tended to rise and fall according to fluctuations in the minimum wage.

      One owner of a small business outside of Seoul said, "Businesses like us constantly suffer from a shortage of workers, so we have no choice but to hire foreigners even if we're suspicious of their visa status. Foreign workers talk to each other on the grapevine and stay away from businesses that pay less than the minimum wage."

      A Justice Ministry official said, "The number of illegal aliens rises and falls according to a complex set of conditions, including employment conditions and pay levels."

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