As early as the second half of 2023, 100 foreign domestic workers from Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines will enter the country. These people have ‘non-professional employment’ in Korea ( E-9 ) visa and provide domestic services in the form of commuting from Seoul for about six months. The Ministry of Employment and Labor and the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced on September 15th that they would be recruiting organizations to hire foreign domestic workers by publishing the ‘Notice on Recruitment of Foreign Domestic Manager Pilot Project Service Providers’. Lee Sang-im, foreign manpower officer at the Ministry of Labor, said, “We will complete the selection of provider organizations in October.” However, it is unclear whether they will continue to be employed after the trial period ends.
To accept domestic workers from Southeast Asia by 2023
If you look at the announcement of the decision of the Ministry of Labor’s ‘Foreign Human Resources Policy Committee’ (September 7), the outline of the policy becomes clearer. The government conducts identity verification on foreigners ’24 years of age or older’, including related experience, knowledge, language ability evaluation, and criminal history, and even conducts a drug test, and then selects those who pass all of them. As for the country sending workers, the Philippines is cited as an example, saying, “We will first consider countries that operate certification systems related to domestic workers.” Those eligible for housework and childcare services are dual-income couples and single parents in their 20s to 40s, and whether full-time or part-time service is available will vary depending on demand.
Unlike Rep. Cho Jeong-hoon, who was criticized for creating ‘modern slavery’ by proposing a bill in March 2023 to not even apply the minimum wage to foreign domestic workers, the government is in the position that it will at least apply the ‘minimum wage’. However, the worker must bear the cost of accommodation while staying in Seoul. The 150 million won that Seoul City secured through the supplementary budget will be used to educate them about Korean culture. Lee Sang-im, in charge of the Korean Language Test ( TOPIK) said, “We will select those who pass the Test of
This policy was materialized with a quick decision. In May 2023, a public hearing was held just two months after President Yoon Seok-yeol issued an order to “actively consider introducing foreign domestic workers,” and recruitment for pilot organizations began two months later. At a public hearing held on July 31, a child care worker who participated as a panel member expressed a negative opinion about foreign domestic workers, saying, “The best thing is to adjust working hours so that I can raise my child.” It wasn’t reflected anywhere until March.
While the Philippine government has strengthened its protection policy for domestic workers dispatched overseas, and the child care service provided by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family requires completion of strict training, foreign domestic workers hired by private organizations are guaranteed the government’s responsibility in the training process. Questions about why this was not done were also raised at the public hearing, but the Ministry of Labor was unable to provide a clear answer.
Mayor Oh Se-hoon and Rep. Jo Jung-hoon emphasize only low wages.
On the other hand, those who have led the discussion on the ‘introduction of foreign domestic workers’ policy do not hesitate at all in revealing their lack of understanding of domestic work and low birth rates or justifying discrimination. The representative candidate is Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon. He first announced on Facebook in September 2022, “The agenda for discussion at today’s Cabinet meeting was ‘changes in population structure and response measures,’” and that he “suggested that the introduction of foreign domestic workers be discussed seriously.” “Korean child care helpers cost 2 to 3 million won per month, while foreign domestic helpers in Singapore cost 380,000 to 760,000 won per month,” which means that low-wage domestic workers must be brought in from abroad to solve low birth rates. This is a statement that does not show the slightest concern about what effect reducing domestic labor to ‘cheap’ will have on domestic workers. The ‘Domestic Workers Act’, which recognizes domestic workers as ‘workers’ under the Labor Standards Act, took 69 years to enact. This law came into effect in June 2022, making it just over a year old. Even if limited to foreign domestic workers, attempts to turn them into jobs that are ‘exempt from minimum wage’ have the effect of “ultimately leveling the value of domestic labor downward” (Bae Jin-kyung, representative of the Korean Women Workers Association).
This blatantly reveals the perception that ‘it is okay not to receive minimum wage’ for housework. Mayor Oh also said at a press conference on the 1st anniversary of his inauguration held on July 3, 2023, “In our country, (household work) is also subject to the minimum wage, and the form initially proposed (to the government) will effectively lead to low birth rates unless there is a change beyond that. “It was proposed based on the perception that it would not be helpful,” he said. “When Hong Kong and Singapore use this system, (the monthly salary) does not exceed 1 million won in Korean currency. He repeatedly emphasized, “Only to that extent will it help with the low birth rate.”
CEO Bae said, “Normally, domestic workers work an average of 4 hours a day and receive an average of 1 million won. “This is because the labor intensity is too high to work ‘full-time,’” he said, adding, “It is questionable whether foreign domestic workers can cover monthly rent and living expenses in Seoul with this salary.” He also said, “If they work 8 hours a day, they should be guaranteed movement and rest time, but the question is whether private institutions will properly coordinate this.” He added, “Foreign domestic workers who suffer from long hours, low wages, and high-intensity labor will eventually be forced to work at other workplaces (rather than domestic work).” “They will try to move it to 메이저놀이터,” he pointed out.
Above all, Mayor Oh cannot explain that Hong Kong and Singapore, which use foreign domestic workers, have the lowest total fertility rate in the world. Instead, on August 24th, he slightly changed his words on Facebook, saying, “When I proposed the introduction of foreign helpers, I did not mean to use it because I had found a card that could immediately reverse the low birth rate.”
There is no shame in revealing a shallow understanding of the reality of foreign worker employment. Mayor Oh said on Facebook on August 1, “For these (Filipino domestic workers), the salary of 1 million won per month is several times the wage they can receive in their home country, so it is excessive to talk about slavery and human rights violations.” “This statement can be read as an ignorance or intentional disregard for the reality that not only domestic domestic workers but also migrant female workers working on existing ‘ E-9 visas’ are exposed to sexual harassment, harassment, violence and exploitation.”
Are we sacrificing foreigners to reduce the cost of housekeepers?
Park Se-sil, an activist at the Korea Migrant Women’s Human Rights Center from the Philippines, tells the story of her friends who were Filipino domestic workers who moved to other countries. “They say they received no sick leave, no vacation, and no severance pay. You don’t even know what commuting times are available where you work or when overtime is available. “I also said that it is very difficult because I have to do everything on my own, including household chores and taking care of my children while working.” (August 28, press conference in front of the Seoul Regional Employment and Labor Office) This is the reality, but it is unfortunate that foreign domestic workers are still subject to the minimum wage law
. Perhaps it is because those who express this have never done housework or care work properly. Coincidentally, they are all ‘middle-aged men’. I recommend it to Mayor Oh Se-hoon and Assemblyman Cho Jung-hoon. Try working as a domestic worker for 380,000 to 760,000 won per month.
*Every holiday, Hankyoreh national reporters report on hot issues from across the country.