|Statistics Korea (KOSTAT) Commissioner Kang Shin-wook speaks at his office in the Government Complex Daejeon in this file photo. / Courtesy of KOSTAT|
By Park Jae-hyuk
The mismatch between supply and demand for foreign workers in rural areas may be reduced to some degree, following the 2020 Census of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries taking place from Nov. 23 to Dec. 18.
Kang Shin-wook, the commissioner of Statistics Korea (KOSTAT), told The Korea Times in a recent interview that his agency will look into the specifics of foreigners working in farming, mountain and fishing villages nationwide through the quinquennial survey.
"Taking into account the situation of rural villages facing labor shortage, we will survey the number of foreign workers they have hired," he said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Korean farmers have suffered huge difficulties this year in harvesting their crops, because a significant number of foreign workers left the country and have not returned. Although the government temporarily allowed foreign workers in August to stay in Korea for up to three more months, most farmers here had to rely on volunteer workers.
KOSTAT expects the forthcoming survey will contribute to solving the problem.
Some foreign residents in rural areas, however, may not want their employers to take part in the survey due to concerns over illegal visa status or undocumented work.
The commissioner emphasized that there will not be any disadvantages, saying, "Any personal information collected of those surveyed is strictly protected by law."
In addition to collecting data on foreign workers, the statistics agency will also survey changes in cultivation areas in the wake of climate change, including rural villages' greenhouse gas emissions and quality of life. It will also check how many villages have adopted automated facilities.
"The survey findings will be used as raw data to enhance competitiveness of the nation's agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries and to improve the quality of life of rural residents," the commissioner said.
He also said his agency is well prepared to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during the survey.
"We adopted contactless survey methods using the internet and telephone calls to protect census collectors and participants from COVID-19," he said. "Rural residents who do not want door-to-door visits due to concerns over the spread of infectious diseases of livestock and possible violation of privacy can participate conveniently and safely in the survey via the internet."