Family business: Korean grandparents demand more for child care

Fri Sep 11, 2015 3:56am EDT
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By Christine Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - Ock Mi-eun, 57, has been taking care of her grandson since he was born two years ago so that her daughter could return to work. She receives 1 million won ($830) a month for her services.

It is not unusual for South Koreans to pay their parents to take care of their children. But the number doing so is on the rise and the arrangement has become more professional-like as parents increasingly pay the equivalent of full babysitting rates.

"You've left your child with someone else, it's only being responsible to pay some compensation," said Ock, who picks up her grandson from his morning daycare and looks after him until his mother retrieves him in the evenings.

Childcare classes for the elderly, rare before 2013, have cropped up at public health centers. They typically teach the resuscitation technique CPR, infant massage, feeding and playing with children.

"They're very eager to learn modern-day childcare because so much has changed from their time, and they don't want to be looked down on by their children," said Song Geum-re, who lectures at childcare classes for the elderly.

The trend is being driven by changes in South Korea's population - the fastest-ageing in the world. A record share of women work and a high rate of poverty among the elderly means many older people need the income.

Even though government data shows almost 53 percent of women work, that level is low compared with other member countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

As of April 2014, 22.4 percent of all married women aged 15 to 54 in South Korea had quit their jobs due to marriage, childbirth or childcare, government data shows.   Continued...

A girl takes a nap next to her grandmother during a child care class for grandparents in Seoul, South Korea, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji