Foreign nanny plan put on hold as Philippines suspends worker deployment

Manila cited the growing number of human rights violations Filipinos have faced in South Korea as the reason they suspended the deployment of their workers.

Lee Jaeeun

Lee Jaeeun

The Korea Herald


Members of organizations that advocate for migrants' human and labor rights hold a press conference outside the National Human Rights Commission of Korea on Jan. 15, where they filed a petition calling for urgent action on behalf of seasonal migrant workers in Korea. PHOTO: NEWSIS/ THE KOREA HERALD

February 8, 2024

SEOUL – A moratorium set by the Philippine government on sending their workers to South Korea has put the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s plan to bring in foreign domestic workers on hold, while also leaving some local farms with a shortage of workers as they will have fewer seasonal workers from the Philippines than in previous years.

The Seoul city government said last year that it would bring in around 100 Filipina domestic helpers during the second half of 2023 in a pilot program to tackle the shortage of people willing to work as maids here. However, the plan has been delayed as permission has been withheld by the Philippine Government.

Instead, the city government has said it now aims to bring in 100 Filipina domestic workers in the first half of this year.

“To be honest, we don’t know yet whether we will be able to bring them in the first half of the year. This is because the Philippine government must grant permission, and further discussions must take place on specific issues such as wages,” an official from the Seoul city government told The Korea Herald on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

Manila cited the growing number of human rights violations Filipinos have faced in South Korea as the reason they suspended the deployment of their workers.

According to local reports, the Department of Migrant Workers of the Philippine Government has been receiving a number of complaints from overseas Filipino workers in Korea. The complaints range from unsafe labor conditions to the underpayment of wages, to overwork and even worker deaths.

For instance, on Jan. 9, two seasonal farm workers from the Philippines who worked in Haenam, South Jeolla Province, filed a complaint against a Korean broker surnamed Hong with the South Jeolla Province Police Agency for human trafficking. It is known that Hong managed the Filipino workers’ bank accounts and withdrew millions of won from them on the pretext of brokerage fees, along with accommodation fees, and took away their passports.

The Korean government provides work visas to foreign seasonal workers from 11 countries for five to eight months at a time due to labor shortages in the country’s agricultural and fisheries sectors. According to the Justice Ministry, there were 3,612 foreign seasonal workers in 2019, with the figure multiplying over fivefold to 19,718 in 2022. The Justice Ministry brought in 26,788 seasonal farm and fishery workers through such visas in the first half of 2023.

According to local governments, seasonal workers from the Philippines account for more than 20 percent of all seasonal workers in Korea. Between 2018 and 2022, among the 11 countries of origin for Korea’s seasonal workers, the Philippines sent the most here with 4,973 people.

Thus, the Korean and local governments are trying to convince the Philippine government to resume sending workers. But it is unclear when that will happen, according to officials with knowledge of the matter.

Some local Korean governments have responded by bringing in seasonal workers from other countries. For example, Wanju, North Jeolla Province, has brought in seasonal workers from Mongolia, Thailand and Cambodia this year, according to the Wanju-gun local government.

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