Korea will receive 100 domestic helpers from the Philippines at the end of July for a pilot programme to test the import of foreign care workers.

They are expected to begin working in Seoul in late August after going through necessary education and training, according to the Ministry of Employment and Labor.

The ministry drew up the plans for the pilot programme last year as demand has been increasing for domestic workers who can offer child care or other housework services while the labour supply has been thinning out gradually.

This imbalance has resulted in an increase in costs as well as the hesitation of more women to give birth amid concerns over their career disruption.

The 100 workers, who will be given non-professional employment visas (E-9), will provide the services under the six-month pilot programme in the capital city, where Mayor Oh Se-hoon has strongly advocated for the introduction of foreign care labourers.

The government had originally planned to implement the pilot program late last year as part of broad measures to address the country’s demographic crisis stemming from declining birthrates.

However, the plan was pushed back as negotiations with the Philippine government on the details took longer than expected.

The two nations have recently finalised the details and decided to accept applications only from those who have earned certificates related to child care from the Technical Education And Skills Development Authority of the Philippines.

The hiring process will begin within this month. Candidates should be aged 24 or older and will be evaluated for their language skills and health.

They will also be subject to criminal background checks and drug tests.

It may take three months for the 100 successful candidates to enter Korea, which means they will likely arrive roughly at the end of July and be ready to start work in August.

After entering the country, the Philippine helpers will go through vocational training and cultural education, which will be supervised by the Human Resources Development Service of Korea (HRDK), for four weeks before beginning to work in households.

They will be supplied and managed by two private companies providing domestic helpers, accredited by the government.

The ministry is considering offering a dormitory for these workers in cooperation with the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

“It will not be easy for them to look for a place to live here, so we are thinking about offering them accommodation in which they can live together,” a ministry official said.

“The city government’s budget could be used to manage the accommodation, though room and board would be charged.”

The minimum wage system will be applied to them, although there have been calls to provide lower wages to them. Korea’s minimum hourly wage for 2024 is set at 9,860 won ($7).

The labour ministry cited its survey that shows there is more demand for part-time helpers — rather than full-time ones — able to work for about four hours a day and three to four days a week.

This means each household using the service on a part-time basis would pay below 1 million won per month, while the workers could earn more than 2 million won if they work part-time at multiple households.

The ministry is considering developing the pilot programme into a full-scale project after analysing the results, leaving open the possibility that the service area could be expanded beyond the capital.

Foreign workers with E-9 visas can work in Korea for three years, and the sojourn period could be extended for those having worked at the same company for a certain period.

“Following the end of the pilot program, the Philippine domestic helpers would be able to continue their work if the project is implemented at full scale,” the ministry official said.

“Also, they could change jobs if they want, as the government decided to newly open jobs in hotels and restaurants, among others, to E-9 holders.” – The Korea Times


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