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S Korea foreign labour woes put older workers back in factories

SEOUL: When Hwang Kwang-jo’s factory in Seoul faced a staffing crunch earlier this year after the departure of Nepalese workers and younger locals, he hired a 61-year-old to pick up some of the work.

While the job, which involves handling heavy alloy bars, is less than ideal for workers close to retirement, the pandemic has diminished South Korea’s pool of foreign labour, forcing firms to widen the net.

Compounding that challenge is younger Koreans’ reluctance to take up blue-collar jobs.

“It’s incredibly difficult to fill vacancies, I never received any resumes from those in their 20s,” said Hwang, chief executive at Iljin Enterprise, an aluminium moulding plant that usually employs about 35 people. “We were able to find Mr Oh in April after the two Nepalese had to leave the country due to visa issues.”

The scramble for labour in South Korea, where unemployment hit a near-record low of 2.9% in July, has led to a…

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