South Korea will bring in foreign domestic helpers in its latest effort to tackle the world’s lowest fertility rate.
A pilot program in Seoul will allow 100 foreign employees to work in childcare and housekeeping for at least six months either full time or part time starting December, the Ministry of Employment and Labor said Friday.
The program is South Korea’s latest move to ease labor shortages and the rising economic burden of raising children, factors that are often cited among reasons for the world’s lowest fertility rate.
The rate, which refers to the number of children a woman is estimated to bear during her lifetime, slid to a low of 0.7 in the second quarter from 0.78 in 2022 and 0.81 in 2021 when the OECD’s average rate was 1.58.
Foreign workers who are part of the pilot will be paid at least the legal minimum wage and earn about 2 million won ($1,513) per month if they work full time. Hiring a live-in Korean housekeeper costs about 3.5 to 4.5 million won ($2,648 to $3,405) per month.
South Korea currently only allows local workers and some Chinese nationals of Korean descent to become nannies.
Priority for hiring foreign domestic helpers will be given to households with working couples between their 20s to 40s and single-parent households or households with multiple children, according to the labor ministry.
The foreign helpers of 24 years of age or more, will be required to take language tests and will also need to go through verification for criminal records and drug tests.
The introduction of foreign helpers may also help South Korea, which is struggling with an aging work force, to increase labor supply. 92 percent of the nation’s child-care work force is aged 50 or older, according to the labor ministry. Bloomberg News