The Korea Herald


Lawmaker again questions minimum wage for foreign domestic workers

By Park Jun-hee

Published : May 25, 2023 - 13:58

    • Link copied

(123rf) (123rf)

Amid the ongoing debate whether South Korea should implement a system to introduce domestic workers of foreign nationality, Rep. Cho Jung-hun of the minor opposition party, Transition Korea, on Thursday repeated his idea that care providers from overseas should be paid below Korea‘s statutory minimum wage.

During a radio interview with MBC on Thursday, Cho, the sole elected lawmaker of the party, said paying low wages would reduce families‘ financial burden and claimed it would help increase the declining birth rate, adding that more families could enjoy a privilege of the wealthy to hire such a helper.

“(Foreign domestic workers) say they are willing to come (to Korea to work) if they are paid between 700,000 won ($528.50) to 1 million won per month, but the insistence that (households) should pay two or three times more (according to the statutory minimum wage) doesn’t benefit young married couples,” Cho said.

South Korea’s current minimum wage is 9,620 won per hour, which translates into about 2.1 million won a month. This figure is slightly less than two-thirds of South Korea‘s average salary of 3.33 million won in 2021, according to data published by Statistics Korea.

Households that have the money usually pay between 3.5 million won to 4 million won monthly for live-in domestic workers of Korean nationality, of which the pool is small, according to reports quoting sources knowledgeable of market rate of such services.

“There’s an official price the sending country wants when Korean people hire foreign domestic workers. It’s $420 for the Philippines, $400 for Indonesia, $370 for Sri Lanka and $330 for Myanmar,” according to Cho.

Cho cited Singapore as an example, saying that Singapore oversees its foreign workers under the sending country’s guidelines.

When asked about paying for housing for foreign domestic workers, another significant issue that needs to be settled, Cho said broker companies should take a cue from Singapore by providing dormitories for foreign domestic workers that could house up to eight people for around 300,000 won per month each.

Cho and 10 other legislators proposed a bill exempting foreign domestic workers from the minimum wage law in March with the claim that it would alleviate the problem of career interruptions for Korean mothers.

The proposal instantly raised criticism that it was pushing foreign domestic workers to engage in slave labor. Two members of the Democratic Party of Korea retracted their support of the bill soon after.

By Park Jun-hee (