Friday, March 19, 2010

Think Tank Calls for Redefinition of Diversity in Migrant Policies

A parliamentary think tank called on policymakers Monday to revisit the concept of diversity for effective policy measures, saying the term is so narrowly defined in the current law that it mainly refers to migrant workers or spouses.

To better cope with a more diverse forthcoming society, the National Assembly Research Service (NARS) stated that most policymakers have a bird's-eye view of the issue, arguing that a lack of a comprehensive framework is responsible for overlapping measures and budget squandering.

According to the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, approximately 900,000 foreigners lived in Korea in 2008, accounting for 1.8 percent of the entire population. About half of them were migrant workers.

The Korean Women's Development Institute forecast that the ratio of foreigners to the entire population will reach 2.8 percent this year and 5 percent by 2050.

In a report titled ``Implementation of Diversity-Related Measures and Policy Recommendations,'' NARS recommended that the government should establish policy measures for multiculturalism.

``The existing law dealing with diversity focuses on policy measures for specific target groups, such as migrant spouses and foreign workers and the children of bi-racial families. The lack of a comprehensive scheme for diversity contributes to squandering the budget and overlapping policies,'' the report said.

Under the proposed scheme, the think tank put forth a general law that addresses the definition of diversity, the principles and requirements of supportive policies, and a ban on discrimination based on race.

Currently, eight ministries, including the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, and the Ministry of Gender Equality, as well as local governments are responsible for policy measures for migrant spouses and children of multicultural families.

Those ministries sponsor Korean language programs and a variety of cultural exposure programs such as festivals to help about one million foreign nationals and migrant spouses living in Korea.

NARS experts said that these one-off measures have been ineffective in making Koreans more aware of diversity, adding that raising the public's awareness should be the primary focus of future policies.

They called on policymakers to respect cultural differences, saying this concern should be addressed in law.

``Policymakers need to be aware that migrant workers or spouses are not subjects who should be assimilated into this country but human beings who have different cultural standards,'' the report said.

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