The Seoul Metropolitan Government recently held a debate with policy experts to address the city's record-low birth rate and explore potential solutions. One of the key proposals discussed was the introduction of foreign nannies at sub-minimum wage pay rates. Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon is advocating for this policy, which could be implemented on a trial basis later this year. Last year, the city recorded the lowest fertility rate among all cities, with only 0.59 children per woman.
To gain insights into the potential effectiveness of this approach, Professor Kim Hyun-cheol from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology shared research from Hong Kong, where a similar policy was introduced in 1990. The number of foreign nannies in Hong Kong increased significantly, but the direct impact on the low birth rate remains uncertain. For the policy to be beneficial for young Korean middle-class parents, foreign nannies' monthly salary should be around one million won ($790).
While experts agreed on the necessity to address Korea's aging child care workforce, they emphasized that the debate should not solely focus on bringing in cheap labor. The number of childcare workers in Korea has declined significantly, and experts recommended considering a labor management system to prevent foreign workers from leaving due to inadequate pay. Furthermore, it was highlighted that the government should adopt comprehensive measures to tackle the declining birth rate, including granting working parents more time to raise children. Reducing working hours, as Korea ranks fourth among OECD nations in longest working hours, could be an additional approach to complement the introduction of foreign nannies.