Press Release

1 in 5 Migrant Workers Were Injured at Work in the Past Year

  • Date 2021-07-01
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The Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA) conducted a survey in 2020 of 1,427 low-wage migrant workers who at the time of the survey were staying in Korea on E9 (non-professional employment), H2 (working visit), or F4 (overseas Koreans) visas. The survey found that although the working conditions of migrant workers have gradually improved over time since the 1990s, when the influx of migrant workers to Korea started in earnest, many workplaces hiring migrant workers still remain in poor conditions. It also found that extreme forms of violence and human rights abuses had continued on not so small a scale. Kim Ki-Tae, associate research fellow, who headed this study, said, “One in five migrant workers in Korea (19.8%) said they had experienced an injury at work in the past year.”

This study analyzes the status of Korea’s social security for migrant workers, including health insurance, occupational accident insurance, national pension, employment insurance, and housing rights, and made relevant policy recommendations.


The following is the summary of this study:


Among migrant workers, those who said they had worked on holidays 8 times a month accounted for 11.5 percent.

  • -The proportion of those who had experienced unfair dismissal in the past year was quite high at 4.7 percent.

  • -Also, in the past year, those who had experienced assault at work accounted for 2.8 percent; among female migrant workers, those who had experienced sexual violence or sexual harassment accounted for 3.1 percent.

  • -The average monthly wage of migrant workers was KRW21.112 million after tax and the average work hours per week were 50 hours.


The proportion of those who answered they hadn’t signed an employment contract was 40.3 percent.

  • -Among those who answered they had signed an employment contract, 13.8 percent said they had experienced a breach of the contract regarding work hours, wage, overtime pay, etc.

  • -Those whose employers didn’t provide a pay stub accounted for 41 percent. This could be abused when settling workers’ severance pay.


The proportion of those who showed depressive tendencies was 29.39 percent for Korean Chinese workers (those on H2, F4 visas) and 26.01 percent for those workers on non-professional visa (E9). These rates are higher than for their Korean counterparts.

  • -In particular, young migrant workers ages 15 to 29 showed higher depressive tendencies.

  • -The CES-D (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale) for young migrant workers on E9 visa was 11.61, and the CES-D for young Korean Chinese workers was 14.81, both of which are quite higher than the average CES-D for Korean young workers at 6.09.


Those who said they had national health insurance accounted for 93.83 percent of the respondents and those who were not insured of health insurance were 6.17 percent (88 workers).

  • -Of those who didn’t have health insurance, when asked why they were uninsured, 29.55 percent answered ‘because insurance premiums were high,’ and 20.45 percent answered ‘they did not know how to subscribe to one.’

  • -Korean Chinese migrant workers had a relatively low level of knowledge about their rights. Half of them answered they were either not aware at all or half aware that there is a minimum wage in Korea.


In Korea, workers can take out employment insurance if they wish, but only a little over 60 percent of migrant workers were aware of this; only half of them actually took out the insurance.

  • -Those on E9, H2, F4 visas are not obligatorily applicable employees for employment insurance.

  • -As of the time of the survey, of the migrant workers, those who were receiving job-seeking benefits accounted for 13.5 percent.

  • -Those who said their employer had occupational accident insurance accounted for 46.9 percent, and 28.8 percent said they knew they could apply for occupational accident benefits without an approval from their employer.


When asked, 50.1 percent of Korean Chinese migrant workers answered they were participating in the National Pension Plan.

  • -Whether a foreigner can participate in the National Pension Plan depends on the social security agreement between the sending country and Korea; Korea and China have such an agreement, making Chinese living in Korea eligible for the National Pension Plan.

  • -Most of those who were not participating in the National Pension Plan cited ‘economic unaffordability’ for the reason.


About half of migrant workers on E9 (non-professional workers) visa were living in a dormitory provided by their employer.

  • -40.5 percent of the respondents were living in poor types of housing such as spaces inside non-residential buildings, temporary housing, unlicensed houses, and atypical housing types including containers.

  • -Those on H2 (working visit) or F4 (overseas Koreans) visas were also living in poor housing conditions as they could only afford housing with low rents.


When asked to choose two public services regarding employment and living in Korea they need most, they chose as follows:

  • -Korean Chinese migrant workers (on H2, F4 visas) chose early support for settlement in Korea (57.0 percent) and counseling for livelihoods and legal matters (55.4 percent).

  • -Non-professional migrant workers chose early support for settlement in Korea (36.1 percent) and language support (31.2 percent).

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