Grandparents in South Korea are being increasingly sought to babysit their grandchildren as parents are forced to put in longer hours at the office. Traditionally this service would be paid for by the grandparent’s children but partly due to widespread poverty among the elder generations pay rates have begun to approach those of professional babysitting services.
Childcare classes have also become more common due to the rising numbers of grandparents seeking out the information. Song Geum-re, who teaches one of the classes, explained the rise in attendance, “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.”
Pay rates for grandparents in the past were as low as one third of those for professional services. However, adult children also used to provide more financial support for their parents outside of the business of babysitting. Because there is currently a dramatic shortage of daycare services available, the demand for the services of these grandparents has become more valuable.
According to numbers from 2014, there were 11 children for every daycare spot available among private babysitting services, and for government daycare facilities that number was 47 to one. This leaves the grandparents to make up the difference. Families who relied on the grandparents to do the babysitting rose from about 32% in 2009, to 35% in 2012. Of those who regularly performed the service, around 80% were paid, according to a survey by the Gyeonggido Family and Women’s Research Institute from 2011.
South Korea has the world’s fastest aging population in the world, coupled with a record share of women in the workplace. Government statistics put the number at 53% of women, but this proportion is low compared to European countries.
With government data showing 49% of those 66 and older living in poverty, the increased pay rates have also been accompanied by stricter policies among some grandparents, who cut off services at specified hours.