Families say good domestic help is hard to come by
In cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, about 40 percent of families rely on domestic helpers to perform a variety of household chores, according to figures released by China’s home service association.
But though it is relatively easy to secure the services of a domestic helper, or ayi, many people still find it difficult to find skilled and experienced ones. Some clients have also said that most helpers who have worked with a particular family for more than a year tend to become lazier and ask for an increase in their wages.
Since she got married six years ago, Jiang Jing has not gone through a day without her ayi helping out in her home. The white collar worker has hired more than 10 ayis in recent years. Jiang’s current helper cleans the apartment, cooks breakfast and dinner, as well as brings her fouryear-old son home after his kindergarten classes.
But though Jiang agrees that it is troublesome to constantly change her domestic helpers every year, she believes this is necessary to maintain a level of quality service and minimize wage increments.
“I normally raise their wages every six months but some of them will still leave for better offers or spend less time doing the chores if they are not satisfied with the pay,” said Jiang.
The biggest concern now for employers like Jiang is that the salaries of ayis have been steadily growing in the past three to five years as the huge demand has outstripped the supply of qualified helpers.
“I have to increase my ayi’s monthly pay by at least 300 yuan ($46) every year. After working for my family for three years, she now earns 7,000 yuan. I also have to pay her for working extra shifts as well as buy train tickets for her to go home,” said Hu Yichun, a 34-year-old mother of two children.
Just like Jiang, Hu cannot imagine life without a domestic helper. However, she also has a number of complaints about her current ayi, such as how she has become lazy and refuses to perform certain tasks.
“Hopefully there will be more companies providing welltrained workers who don’t cost too much to hire. This will help with the job retention of the reliable helpers,” said Hu.
The latest statistics released by China’s home service association show that there are currently over 20 million people working in the housekeeping industry, which was estimated to be worth 2 trillion yuan last year. The combined revenues of these domestic services companies had exceeded 338 billion yuan.
“It is a natural result from the higher consumption levels of Chinese families. Working parents who are busy with work and have more than one child will usually need to pay someone to tidy the home, prepare meals and take care of the family,” said Gu Xiaoming, a professor from Shanghai’s Fudan University.
“The new second-child policy is expected to introduce 60,000 more babies from now to 2018, and this will help maintain the high demand for nannies who can offer childcare services.”