Nanny Industry Plagued by Dodgy Service

      January 24, 2007 07:30

      Since Korea's first nanny brokerage opened in 1996, the industry has grown into a W1 trillion enterprise with about 100 businesses across the country, according to the Korean Baby Sitter's Association (US$1=W940).

      The demand comes as more Korean mothers enter the workplace, with double-income families now numbering 3.63 million households. But despite the rapid growth, no certification system or standards have been adopted, leading many families to fall victim to bad nannies.

      ◆ A W1-Trillion Market

      The Chosun Ilbo compared the rates of eight nanny providers. The average rate for live-in Korean baby sitters is between W1.3 and W1.7 million, while ethnic Koreans from China receive W1.2 to W1.3 million. That's based on a six-day work week for one child.

      With two kids, the rate rises by W200,000-300,000. Customers also pay a 10 percent commission, or about W80,000 fee to the broker. Of the 2.99 million Korean children under age five, about 809,000 have working mothers. "Over 20 percent of those mothers are hiring nannies," a staffer from the association said. "With each family paying an average of W800,000 per month, that means the market is worth at least W1.3 trillion," the official said.

      ◆ Double Pain for Working Mothers

      Working mothers who have to deal with the pain of missing their children throughout the day sometimes must also deal with the additional stress of bad nannies. One working mother named Lee said she was surprised when her Korean-Chinese baby sitter asked for a pay raise just three months after she began.

      "After I taught her everything about managing the household and taking care of kids, she demanded a salary increase or she said she would quit," Lee said. "I had no choice but to pay her W100,000 more." She complained that some Korean-Chinese nannies even meet to collude on their rates.

      Another mother, Kim, a patent attorney, said that her nanny suddenly threatened to quit after Kim came home late from work one evening. The nanny, with little explanation, stubbornly refused to work any longer. Kim had to take a leave of absence the next day and traveled to Daejeon, leaving the four-month-old baby with her mother-in-law.

      "Even though she didn't give any prior notice, I couldn't do anything about it," Kim said. Web sites related to child-rearing such as Workingmom and Bebehouse feature dozens of similar complaints from frustrated parents.

      There are a total of 3,425 Korean-Chinese baby sitters registered with the Ministry of Labor. But as many brokerages are increasingly hiring low-paid, illegal Korean-Chinese nannies, more and more customers are experiencing poor service.

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