Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Filipinos: Nannies, maybe; native speakers, no.

The Korea Times reports that
To boost the nation’s falling birthrates and encourage more women to participate in economic activities, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance is considering bringing Filipino women into the country to employ them as babysitters.[...]

In 2011, only 53.7 percent of women here aged between 30 and 39 were found to be employed, substantially lower than 89.8 percent for men in the same age bracket. Currently, about 200,000 middle-aged Koreans and ethnic Koreans from mainland China with H-2 visas are estimated to work as babysitters. Families raising one child pay Korean babysitters up to 2 million won per month and Chinese childminders nearly 1.5 million won, putting a heavy financial burden on working mothers.[...]

Despite this, the labor ministry expressed concerns, claiming that it will not likely help raise the country’s birthrate nor encourage more women to find jobs.

“There are plenty of people who are already working as babysitters or willing to become one,” said Yoon Young-soon, director of the ministry’s foreign workforce policy division. “Tens of thousands of ethnic Korean women from China are caring for babies of working families. On top of that, a growing number of middle-aged Korean women are looking to become babysitters amid the tightening labor market conditions.”[...]

“The measure will only backfire as it would take away jobs from Koreans and ethnic Chinese babysitters. It could also aggravate the already-dire illegal alien problem” the director said. “If the government wants to raise birthrates and help Korean women keep working, it should make more efforts to build more decent and affordable childcare facilities and make workplaces more friendly for working mothers.”
Anyone care to fill me in on this 'already-dire illegal alien problem'? If that's how the labor ministry feels, it's hard to imagine the ministry of justice being very enthusiastic, but they're taking a 'we'll get back to you later' attitude at the moment. Also, I imagine that "ethnic Chinese babysitters" above is a typo, and likely is meant to say "Chinese ethnic Koreans".

At any rate, some moms are showing interest in the idea:
“I pay my Korean babysitter 1.5 million won a month for looking after my 4-year-old daughter, accounting for about half of my monthly salary. If she lived with us, I would have to pay more,” said Kim Hye-na, a 33-year-old working mother in Seoul. “If Filipino women come here and work as babysitters, it would certainly bring down the childcare costs. They could also help my daughter learn English. The plan seems to be a good idea.”
The teaching English part might work fine, as long as they don't bill themselves as 'native speakers,' as one video English program has. As a Gyeongin Ilbo article titled "Native speakers are 'Filipinos?'" relates in its subtitles, "There are almost no American or English teachers involved in 'Suwon foreign language video learning,'" and there is a "Backlash from parents who signed up for 'native speaker class'"

As the article explains, there is controversy over the fact that 'Suwon native speaker video English learning' (NISE), which was established to relieve private English education costs, is mostly taught by Filipinos.

Started in 2008 in Nowon-gu for students from elementary grade 3 to middle school grade 3, 1.7 billion won was spent on the program which is operated by YBM.

Last September Suwon made a deal with Nowon-gu and from October students were gathered for an identical system in Suwon. It costs 68,000 won for two months and four students wearing headsets share conversations with an English instructor via the internet.

However, when parents who believed the 'native speaker' label signed up for it, they found out most of the instructors are Filipino, which led to complaints because Filipinos are not viewed as being native speakers and are not included in the 7 countries usually included under that label.

An investigation found that, of 120 instructors at Nowon-gu's video call centers in Makati and Cebu, 95% are Filipino and 5% are from the US or UK.

YBM defended this, saying, "In truth, seeing the progress of this education, Filipinos teach students even better than instructors from the US or Canada, and they are a better match for our sentiments/emotions."

Or to put it another way, they "understand Asian values very well."

A Suwon official says that there's not much to be done now, what with classes involving some 500 students in progress, but issues that have arisen can be dealt with in the future.

While there really shouldn't be a problem using Filipinos for video classes, you'd think YBM would have figured out that billing them as native speakers would lead parents here to feel cheated.


James said...

When I visited the Philippines I was pretty taken with how well people spoke English. When students from our sister college in Manilla come to visit lovely Daegu, their English skills are impeccable.

Which is to say, the Philippines has far fewer resources than South Korea but seems to have little trouble or drama teaching their young students English.

And more to the point, the reason Korean parents are upset about Philippines teachers not being "native speakers" should be changed to "white-skinned, green/blue eyed" ones.

PS it's really a pain to get past blogger's asinine character definition scheme these days. Maybe time to move up to Wordpress?

Matthew said...

One has to be fair to the Korean students learning English.

There is significant 'language distance' between Korean and English. This makes it relatively difficult for Korean speakers to pick up English. Contrast this to Japanese. Korean speakers can learn Japanese in 6 months. The reason for it is the relative 'distance' between the languages (nothing to do with geography).

crossmr said...

Oh James, just because you found some filipinos somewhere who spoke english well doesn't mean as a group they're remotely on par with native english speakers as a group.

I can't count the amount of filipons I've met in Korea who speak absolutely atrocious english, if at all. Including those working as English teachers.

We're talking all kinds of problems from basically non-functional english to higher level individuals who never-the-less still spoke rather strangely. Using archaic grammar or vocabulary choices or just making all around weird sentences.

Most filipinos you meet will be the first to admit that their english skills certainly wouldn't hold up at the north american university/college level at best.

It's the reason they'll never be given that status and as it stands that's unlikely to change. While education varies somewhat around the 7 countries, an english speaking grad of an english speaking university will at least deliver you with a minimum level of acceptable english.

Unknown said...

PCrossmr....... I just wonder if you have actually been to the Philippines? They speak great English there and your comments are uncalled for. Sure some Filipinos don't speak well but by and large they do.

I have travelled widely in the Philippines and I am married to a Filipina as well and spend plenty of time with the Philippine community here in Seoul and they speak excellent English.

As far as your comment about native speakers speaking better English, that, with all due respect, is horse manure.

If you go onto a website called Waygook, which is a website for native teachers here in Korea, you will see some of the most appalling English you will ever encounter. To say that someone is good at the English Language simply because they are from one of the native English speaking countries and are graduates, is very naive.

I invite you to come to the Philippine Community Centre here in Seoul and meet the people there and you will see how wrong your assessment of them is.

Unknown said...

It is also interesting to note in this article that they are quite happy to pay Filipinos less than than Koreans. It is just a matter of economics perhaps and not a matter of loyalty.