Civic activists representing migrant workers, women and daycare laborers hold a press conference in front of the Bank of Korea (BOK) in Seoul, Wednesday, to condemn the bank's report suggesting paying foreign caregivers less than the minimum wage. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul

A recent suggestion by some studies and municipalities to introduce foreign care laborers who are paid less than the legal minimum wage has been emerging as a hot-button issue, triggering criticism within labor circles for being a “racist and inhumane” measure breaching international and domestic labor standards.A group of civic activists representing migrant workers and daycare laborers held a press conference in front of the Bank of Korea (BOK) in Seoul, Wednesday, to condemn the organization’s recent report in which it recommended paying foreign caregivers wages below the legal minimum of 9,860 won ($7.49) per hour.Currently hiring foreign nannies or caregivers for the elderly is illegal, but the government, along with the Seoul Metropolitan Government, will launch a pilot program to introduce nannies and housekeepers from the Philippines within the year, with a plan to apply the same minimum wage for local workers.“Migrant workers (in Korea) are already being treated like cheap disposable products. We are forced into harsh labor and have no right to leave a workplace without the employer’s permission,” Migrants’ Trade Union leader Udaya Rai said, arguing that the BOK suggestion would require them to sacrifice further and discriminates against migrant workers under the pretext of national interest.

In Japan, which experienced similar issues when it introduced foreign workers at lower wages over a decade ago, suffered various problems such as labor exploitation and human rights infringement, according to Kwon Oh-hun, the vice leader of the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU). According to the BOK report, Korea will face a critical shortage of 1.55 million workers to take care of the elderly, sick and children by 2042 due to an aging society and increasing number of young, working couples. The report suggested “alleviating the financial burden” of care labor that Koreans face by introducing foreign workers and exempting them from the minimum wage system. The average costs of full-time nursing and babysitting are 3.7 million won and 2.64 million won per month, respectively, which is too much for an average household to pay. The report cites a survey of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong, saying they are content with their working conditions. Nevertheless, the survey fails to represent the industry because it was conducted with only 102 Filipino nationals, according to Bae Jin-kyung, the head of the Korean Women Workers Association. There are 338,189 domestic workers in Hong Kong as of 2022, around 56 percent of whom are from the Philippines. Notably, the Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic 스포츠토토존 Workers Union (FADWU) joined the event in a statement of solidarity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *