Private childcare services on the rise in North Korea

Male North Korean resident pushing a stroller in Pyongyang
Male North Korean resident pushing a stroller in Pyongyang. Image: Daily NK

Private childcare facilities in North Korea for working parents are on the rise, a North Korean source recently reported. North Korean women are increasingly interested in such services in Pyongsong and Sinuiju, where parents can earn good money by working in the local markets.

“Parents who are busy with work but have some money to spend are increasingly putting their kids into childcare facilities,” a South Pyongan Province-based source told Daily NK.

Daily NK reported in May that there has been an increase in the number of private childcare centers in the northern part of the country. Now, it appears, similar facilities are gaining popularity throughout the country, including the western part of the country in Pyongsong and Sinuiju.

Collective farms and factories rated “level three” or higher all operate their own childcare centers. Smaller factories or enterprises usually have their own childcare centers, but employees can send their kids to local centers. Full-time housewives generally take care of their children at home, making it easier to send them to kindergarten.

“[These women] hire childcare providers to look after their children at home rather than sending them to childcare centers. This ensures the kids avoid any issues that arise from being with other children, and allows the mothers to have more control over what their kids eat,” the source said. “Wealthy families tend to hire private childcare providers instead of sending their kids to state-run centers.”

The preference by many North Koreans for home childcare is based on a number of factors. While the source conceded that state-run and private providers offer similar services and that the state-run centers are more professional, home-based services allow providers to focus on a single child at a time.

“Regular childcare centers don’t provide anything except for diapers, so parents provide the milk, glutinous rice flour, rice and snacks for the children,” a source in North Pyongan Province reported.

This means that parents have to shell out more money to pay for food and other necessities. Parents pay up to 100 yuan – a substantial sum. However, the source said that many parents see it as a necessity.

She suggested that the rise in preferences toward home-based childcare services is due to North Korea’s recent economic difficulties. Parents need all-day childcare services because they are working from dawn until dusk.

“While most childcare providers work just from 8 AM to 6 PM, they can work longer hours if they’re paid more,” she said. “But some parents are anxious about private childcare due to reports of various mishaps, and still prefer state-run centers.”