Pilot Program to Bring Filipino Household Workers to Seoul Faces Affordability Concerns | Be Korea-savvy

Pilot Program to Bring Filipino Household Workers to Seoul Faces Affordability Concerns

2024 COBE Baby Fair (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

2024 COBE Baby Fair (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

SEOUL, May 23 (Korea Bizwire) – Beginning in September, 100 Filipino household workers will be deployed in Seoul as part of a pilot program aimed at assisting dual-income families with child care.

However, the high monthly cost of around 2.06 million won for full-time services has raised concerns among young couples about the program’s affordability. 

According to the Ministry of Employment and Labor and the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the Philippine government will complete the selection process for domestic helpers bound for South Korea on June 21.

These workers are expected to arrive in late July, undergo a four-week cultural training program, and begin their assignments in September under the E-9 visa category.

The primary issue revolves around the cost of the program. During initial discussions on introducing foreign household workers, the models employed in Hong Kong and Singapore were prominently referenced, where domestic helpers can be hired for around 1 million won per month. 

Last March, Rep. Cho Jung-hun of the People Power Party proposed a bill to amend the “Act on the Improvement of Employment of Domestic Workers” to address career disruptions for women and low birth rates by allowing the employment of foreign domestic workers without being subject to the minimum wage requirements. 

President Yoon Suk-yeol expressed support for the proposal at the time. 

In a discussion hosted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Kim Hyuncheol, an economics professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, stated that for middle-class households to benefit from the program, the monthly cost should be around 1 million won, considering the median income of around 3.2 million won for women in their 30s. 

However, the Filipino household workers will be subject to South Korea’s minimum wage regulations. Based on a 40-hour workweek and including weekly holiday allowances, employers will need to pay approximately 2.06 million won per month – a stark contrast to the minimum daily wage of 610 pesos (around 15,000 won) in the National Capital Region of the Philippines, which is less than two hours’ worth of South Korea’s minimum wage. 

Young couples have voiced frustration, questioning the rationale for hiring Filipino household workers at such a high cost. Considering the average monthly household income of around 5.02 million won as of the fourth quarter of last year, hiring a domestic helper would effectively consume the entire monthly salary of one of the spouses. 

Concerns have also been raised about potential language barriers, as a similar situation in Japan led to hourly rates of around 4,290 yen (about 37,000 won), effectively limiting the service to affluent households with annual incomes exceeding 10 million yen.

A ministry official acknowledged the concerns, stating, “As this is a pilot program, we will initially implement it and consider revisions if necessary after further review.”

M. H. Lee (mhlee@koreabizwire.com) 

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