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S. Korea: Shipbuilding gets gov’t help to stay competitive

The government released a plan for Korea’s shipbuilding industry emphasizing environmentally friendly vessels and a new handling of skilled worker visas.

More workers with non-professional E-9 visas will be allowed to convert to E-7-4 skilled workers visas to work in shipbuilding. With that visa, they can bring their families to Korea and apply for permanent residency.

This will apply to people who have worked for a minimum of five years on E-9 visas.

Around 100 to 200 workers will be allowed to upgrade their visas next year.

The shipbuilding industry is facing a shortage of skilled workers as its orders grow.

In the first seven months of this year, Korean shipbuilders booked orders for ships adding up to 11 million compensated gross tonnage (CGT), a 46 percent increase over a year earlier.

Worldwide, ship orders last year were the highest since 2013 at 52.3 million CGT.

The industry has trouble hiring because wages aren’t great.

Employees in their 20s and 30s last year accounted for only 34.1 percent of all workers, a drop from 49.9 percent in 2015. Workers in their 50s increased from 19.5 percent in 2015 to 24.6 percent. Workers in their 60s rose from 3.5 percent to 6.5 percent.

The industry estimates that as of the third quarter, it is short 7,900 workers. By the second quarter of next year, it expects the shortage of workers to exceed 10,000.

“Orders for environmentally friendly vessels have increased and the demand for workers has gone up as well,” said Kwon Gi-seob, vice minister of employment and labor. “However, the industry is facing a serious shortage of workers because of low incomes, high risks and job insecurity,”

The government wants to make it easier to hire foreigners and improve work conditions to attract young Koreans.

New incentives include raising a 200,000 won subsidy paid by the government and shipbuilders for vocational training to 1 million won next year.

Some 1,500 will be eligible for the subsidy, which is 50 percent more than this year.

Environmentally friendly ships are another focus.

The goal is for Korea to grab a 75 percent market share in such ships by 2030.

“Smart yard” technology, referring to an unmanned manufacturing shipbuilding system, will be developed.

The government also plans to help the industry diversify into floating, storage, re-gasification units (FSRU).
Source: The JoongAng Daily

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