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First 100 Filipino domestic helpers due September

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : May 20, 2024 - 14:21

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The first 100 Filipino domestic workers will arrive in Seoul as early as September, with observers saying they are expected to earn at least 1.5 million won ($1,135) per month, in line with this year's minimum wage, according to South Korea's Labor Ministry, Monday.

The Ministry of Employment and Labor said that the Philippine government posted a job notification earlier this month for 100 Filipino domestic workers willing to work in Seoul. The notification followed a wrap-up of discussions between the Korean and the Philippine governments over a pilot program for such domestic workers.

Accordingly, the Philippine government has decided to complete the hiring process of 100 Filipino domestic workers by June 21. Filipino women aged between 24 and 38 who have earned child care certificates from the state-run Technical Education And Skills Development Authority of the Philippines will be eligible to apply.

Candidates will be evaluated in their career and Korean and English language skills. They will also be subjected to criminal background checks and drug tests and will be required to submit health examination documents.

The Labor Ministry said it expected candidates to enter Korea around the end of July, after interviews, health checkups and Korean language tests.

After four weeks of training in Korean language, culture and vocational activities, which will be supervised by the Human Resources Development Service of Korea, they will be deployed on-site in September, according to the ministry.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government will also begin accepting applications from Korean households seeking to hire Filipino domestic workers around the end of July.

Last year, the Labor Ministry stated it planned to recruit around 100 foreign domestic workers in 2023 on E-9 visas.

E-9 visas are issued to citizens of Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, East Timor (Timor-Leste), Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Vietnam to do "nonprofessional" labor.

Currently, E-9 visa holders can only work in the agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing and construction sectors, with restaurants serving Korean food, hotels and resorts, forestry and mining added more recently. However, the program will be expanded to include domestic services like child care and housekeeping.

The pilot program will be limited to Seoul, and only accept Filipino nationals, until the official version is launched.

The workers will be hired directly by a Korean government-certified domestic service provider, and they will commute to and from the homes assigned by the agency.

To cover the additional costs of housing, transportation and interpretation, the Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to provide a budget of 150 million won.

The pilot project will not include previously suggested provisions allowing employers to pay them below the minimum wage. Instead, they are subject to the same labor laws as Korean nationals, such as the Domestic Workers Act, and are guaranteed a minimum wage of 9,860 won an hour. As they are allowed to work at least 30 hours per week, each worker would earn at least 1.54 million won per month, once paid time off is factored into account.

The Labor Ministry plans to fine-tune the policy after the six-month pilot.

Earlier in March 2023, A revised bill to exempt foreign domestic workers from the minimum wage law was submitted, only to face strong criticism that it was discriminatory. Also, a report from the Bank of Korea in March pointed out that a differential minimum wage would create legal problems due to treaties the country had signed.