Parents Struggle with Childcare Amid Lack of Flexible Work Options and High Cost of Nannies | Be Korea-savvy

Parents Struggle with Childcare Amid Lack of Flexible Work Options and High Cost of Nannies

Parents are struggling to find childcare solutions, such as hiring a nanny. (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

Parents are struggling to find childcare solutions, such as hiring a nanny. (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Korea Bizwire) — Internet parenting communities are abuzz with posts from parents who have returned to work and are struggling to find childcare solutions, such as hiring a nanny, for their children’s school pick-ups and drop-offs.

Many parents are resorting to various channels like second-hand sales sites and apartment group chats to find and share experiences about hiring nannies. 

Despite the South Korean government offering childcare services for families with children under 12 years of age, where there’s a gap in care due to both parents working, the demand for these services significantly exceeds the supply, leading to long waiting times. This is despite having to pay a portion of the cost. 

A dad, Mr. Kim (33), who recently returned to work after parental leave, shared, “The biggest worry after returning to work is the kids’ school runs. Most of the families that we know use extended classes as the usual daycare hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Many women quit their jobs because they can’t bear leaving their child at daycare for such long hours.” 

Despite many working parents wishing for flexible working hours to manage school runs, the reality is far from ideal. According to a report from the Korea Institute of Child Care and Education, the usage rate of reduced working hours and flexible work arrangements during child-rearing is much lower than parental leave. 

Reduced working hours for child-rearing allow parents of children under eight or in the second grade or below to shorten their working hours. Flexible work arrangements include reduced work hours, staggered work hours, and selective work hours.

In 2022, only 19,466 employees in large and priority companies under the Employment Insurance Act were using reduced working hours, compared to 131,087 on parental leave. This indicates a significantly lower usage rate for reduced working hours than for parental leave, which is already perceived as difficult to use without feeling judged.

According to the Korean Statistical Information Service, 80.6% of companies in 2021 reported not operating a flexible work system, showing that most companies do not allow flexible work. 

Parents who participated in the research team’s interviews expressed difficulties with the high costs of childcare and the challenges of using available programs after returning to work.

One parent mentioned, “If the company would allow even a slight adjustment in work hours for school runs, parents could take turns, but that’s not happening. So we have to hire a ‘school run helper’ and send kids to private education.”

Another parent said, “If grandparents aren’t available, it becomes very difficult. Hiring a helper for about six hours a day costs around 1.9 million won per month, which makes many hesitate to return to work and consider moving closer to grandparents.” 

“Companies with employees who have young children or are returning from parental leave should actively adopt and utilize flexible work arrangements,” suggested researcher Kim Dong-hoon. 

He added that a workplace culture allowing the use of such programs without fear of judgment is necessary, along with ensuring that employees don’t face disadvantages in promotions or evaluations due after making use of these programs. 

He also pointed out the need to provide additional incentives, like employment stability grants during childbirth and parenting, to employers who implement various ‘time support policies’ for parents.

Professor Jung Jae-hoon of Seoul Women’s University’s Department of Social Welfare commented, “In many Western European welfare countries, policies are designed for shorter parental leave but longer reductions in working hours during child-rearing.”

He suggested that it is necessary to dramatically expand the introduction of reduced working hours through labor-management agreements.

M. H. Lee ( 

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