Fam­i­lies say good do­mes­tic help is hard to come by

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By YU RAN in Shang­hai yu­ran@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.”

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