In South Korea, Prada did not hire any disabled workers in 10 years

South Korean ministry of Labor every year publishes a list of companies that fail to meet legal requirements for hiring people with disabilities. International companies are not absent: Three of the five largest companies with the lowest employment rate of disabled people are foreign companies. Zara is the largest company operating in Korea with no disabled worker, Prada has not hired a single person with disabilities for 10 years.

Street in South Korea
Street in South Korea | © shawnanggg, 2018

The ministry of Employment and Labor of South Korea published on December 20 its annual list singling out companies with over 300 employees that fail to recruit or implement recruiting procedures for workers with disabilities.

And a total of 436 organizations operating in South Korea have been put on the list this year, down 79 companies compared to last year, because they “did not make efforts to hire people with disabilities, despite the significantly low employment rate of people with disabilities,” according to the ministry.

According to South Korean law, state-owned organizations need to have more than 3.4 percent of employees with disabilities. The threshold for private companies with more than 50 employees is 3.1 percent of their workforce. Disability employment quota policy has been in place since 1990 in the country.

According to the Korea Employment Agency for Persons with Disabilities, about 5 percent of the Korean population (2.6 million people) is considered to have disabilities and 32 percent of the economically active population with a disability but capable of work didn’t have a job in 2021. There are about 29,000 companies with 50 or more full-time employees subject to disability employment quota and despite government supports only 44 percent of them fulfilled their obligations in 2021. The Korea Herald in 2015 reported the larger companies were, the more they preferred paying a fine.

Yet, as a way to put public pressure on organizations to adopt a more inclusive workplace, the government publishes every year the list of companies with more than 300 employees that don’t reach 80 percent of the requirement for public institutions (2.72%) and 50 percent for private companies (1.55%).

They are also notified in April by authorities that they fail to fulfill their obligations and are given six months to improve through training on awareness, round tables to solve challenges on the issue, or measures to make the company able to hire people with disabilities.

Most of the companies on the list are private South Korean organizations, even though 17 Korean public institutions have failed to show efforts in diversifying their recruitment, too. The manufacturing industry is the most represented in the list.

But a few companies on the list are also largely recognized international corporations such as Nike, luxury group Richemont, Zara, Citibank, retailer Costco. Yet, these companies employ more than 1,000 full-time workers in Korea. Zara, Nike and Richemont even account for three out of the five companies with more than 1,000 employees with the lowest employment rate of disabled people in the country, according to the ministry ranking.

The Korean branches of Zara, Tesla, Swarovski, Hermès, Swiss pharmaceutical Roche, and Ferragamo don’t have a single employee with disabilities.

Prada Korea, Japanese electrical engineering multinational Yokogawa and Elco Ink, the Korean branch of Estée Lauder companies for travel retail, are even among the eleven companies that have not hired a single worker with disabilities in 10 years.

Nike, which employs 1,194 people in Korea including 37 recruiters, has only 3 people with disabilities in their workforce. Similarly, Richemont Group, which has 1,139 employees, has only 3 disabled people in their staff but has also failed their obligations regarding the employment of disabled people for 10 consecutive years.

Corporations employing between 500 and 999 employees failing to meet legal quotas include American healthcare Abbott, Prada, insurance company MetLife, Philip Morris, HSBC, Novartis, Ericsson, and tech company Oracle.

In the list of smaller international companies, between 300 and 499 employees, can also be found Tesla, Swarovski, Hermès, Yokogawa, Roche, Ferragamo, Balenciaga, AstraZeneca, Philips, Cisco Systems, British marketing firm Kantar, Swedish-Swiss electrical equipment ABB, French automotive supplier Faurecia, chemical companies Henkel and Linde, Sanofi, Dell, American industrial conglomerate Honeywell.

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