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Expat workers left behind in mandatory health insurance program
  • By Kim Eun-young
  • Published 2019.06.07 15:27
  • Updated 2019.06.07 15:27
  • comments 0

Foreigners who stay longer than six months in Korea are obliged to subscribe to the national health insurance from next month. However, many expatriate workers cannot be employee subscribers because their employers are not officially registered as businesses, activists said, demanding a solution.

Joint Committee with Migrants in Korea (JCMK) on Wednesday released a statement, saying, “It is rarely known that many foreigners in Korea are unable to enroll in the health insurance program even though most of them are workers.”

The group went on to say, “The Foreigner Employment Permit System mandates foreign immigrant workers to join the health insurance program as employee subscribers, not as local subscribers, but a considerable number of them are not able to do so.”

According to JCMK, only 71.2 percent of immigrant workers subscribed to the health insurance program as employee subscribers, whereas the number was as high as 98 percent among Korean regular workers in 2015. By sector, the subscription rate among expatriates was 85.8 percent in manufacturing, 54.9 percent in construction, 16.1 percent in agriculture and farming, and 7.7 percent in fisheries.

The subscription rate was significantly low in agriculture, farming, and fisheries because most of the small businesses are not officially registered with the government, JCMK said.

Expat workers at unregistered businesses find it impossible to join the national health insurance, and many immigrant workers are marginalized from the health insurance benefits, it added.

The group demanded the government stop unregistered businesses from obtaining employment permit and allow only registered ones to apply the employment permit system. “Employers of immigrant workers should display whether their companies are registered with the health insurance on the employment contract form to let workers know the relevant information,” it said.

While the government was delaying to apply the industrial accident compensation insurance to expat workers, they were denied from proper treatments even when they had serious injuries, JCMK said.

“Businesses with fewer than five employees are exempt from the mandatory subscription of industrial accident compensation insurance. If a worker at such company suffers an industrial accident, he or she cannot receive treatment or compensation appropriately,” the group said.

The government is turning a blind eye to applying the insurance to all companies and damages to immigrant workers continue, it added.


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