Help­ing hands wanted for the home

An ag­ing so­ci­ety and grow­ing mid­dle class mean there is a soar­ing de­mand for good do­mes­tic work­ers, Hou Liqiang re­ports.

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - Con­tact the writer at houliqiang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Find­ing qual­i­fied and ded­i­cated do­mes­tic work­ers has been “ex­tremely dif­fi­cult” for Han Lu, an en­gi­neer at a State-owned com­pany in Hubei’s pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal Wuhan.

The 37-year-old has changed two nan­nies and been through 30 do­mes­tic work­ers since she had her daugh­ter on June 4, 2014. She said most of the do­mes­tic work­ers have not been sat­is­fac­tory as they lacked knowhow about the ser­vice they of­fer.

Han’s ex­pe­ri­ence tes­ti­fies to the lack of pro­fes­sional do­mes­tic work­ers in China, for which there is a grow­ing de­mand.

“Good do­mes­tic work­ers are in high de­mand. The sup­ply, how­ever, falls short. Many fam­i­lies find it dif­fi­cult to em­ploy a qual­i­fied do­mes­tic worker,” said Li Changze, a spokesman for Ay­i­laile, an agency that sup­plies do­mes­tic ser­vices.

More than 70,000 do­mes­tic work­ers serv­ing more than 100,000 clients na­tion­wide are reg­is­tered with Ay­i­laile.

But cur­rently, only two out of ev­ery 10women, who are sent to the com­pany through lo­cal govern­ment’s la­bor ex­port projects or by train­ing schools, are qual­i­fied to do the work, Li said.

“The do­mes­tic ser­vice in­dus­try used to em­ploy a lot of women that could hardly find other jobs, but they are not the la­bor the in­dus­try re­ally needs. In­stead of the sur­plus la­bor, the in­dus­try needs young peo­ple who con­sider do­mes­tic ser­vice to be their ca­reer,” he said.

Lack­ing pro­fes­sion­al­ism, many do­mes­tic work­ers only want to make money and may quit at any time, he added.

The last nanny Han hired had to call her teacher con­stantly to ask for advice. She quit sud­denly be­fore Spring Fes­ti­val last year, leav­ing Han in the lurch, and she had to ask for leave from her work. She said she even thought about quit­ting her job.

Han in­creased the num­ber of do­mes­tic work­ers in her home from two to three last month to sup­port the fam­ily of six, in­clud­ing three se­niors in their 70s. In ad­di­tion to a nanny, she has one worker to do the clean­ing and one to do the cook­ing.

“I em­ploy three so there will be some­one who can help even if two of them quit,” she said.

Li said it’s im­por­tant that home helpers with high qual­i­fi­ca­tions and a pro­fes­sional at­ti­tude are paid de­cent salaries to en­cour­age oth­ers to fol­low their ex­am­ple. Then, more peo­ple would re­gard be­ing in do­mes­tic ser­vice as a ca­reer rather than just a tem­po­rary job.

Gao Xin, au­thor of Bloom­ing Vi­ola Philip­pica: The Oral History of Do­mes­tic Work­ers, said many women with no spe­cial skills work on fac­tory assembly lines first and then con­struc­tion sites be­fore be­com­ing do­mes­tic work­ers.

She said many Chi­nese do­mes­tic work­ers, who are from the bot­tom rung of so­ci­ety, hold the per­cep­tion that they are in­fe­rior to oth­ers. This dif­fers a lot from Filipino do­mes­tic work­ers, who take pride in their­work

I em­ploy three (do­mes­tic helpers) so there will be some­one who can help even if two of them quit.” Han Lu, a res­i­dent of Wuhan, Hubei prov­ince

and have won wide recog­ni­tion, she said.

That do­mes­tic work­ers feel in­fe­rior can some­times re­sult in trou­ble, Gao said. She of­fered as an ex­am­ple a live-in post­par­tum care worker who would prob­a­bly feel hes­i­tant to op­pose the par­ents’ de­ci­sion not to send an in­fant with fever to hospi­tal.

If they have pro­fes­sional sta­tus, they would have more re­spect and their opin­ions would be more val­ued, Gao said.

How­ever, she said many women, though they do the work, only do so be­cause the de­mand is there and it is a way to make some money; they do not view it as a ca­reer or want to be a pro­fes­sional.

Dur­ing the re­struc­tur­ing of China’s State-owned en­ter­prises in the 1990s, tens of mil­lions of work­ers were laid off. The All-China Women’s Fed­er­a­tion and its lo­cal branches made great ef­forts to train and ab­sorb laid-off women into the do­mes­tic ser­vice in­dus­try, said Tang Binyao, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of so­cial work at the Univer­sity of Ji­nan in Shan­dong prov­ince.

Those laid-off work­ers are now re­tir­ing. While some col­lege grad­u­ates are join­ing the in­dus­try, the pro­por­tion of fe­male mi­grant work­ers from the ru­ral ar­eas work­ing as home helpers is still high. With in­suf­fi­cient train­ing, th­ese women lack the nec­es­sary ser­vice skills and have a low level of pro­fes­sion­al­ism, said Tang, who is also one of the nine founders of the Gi­chon So­cial Ser­vice Cen­ter for the Com­mu­nity in Ji­nan, an NGO that fo­cuses on serv­ing se­niors and do­mes­tic work­ers.

While th­ese women from ru­ral ar­eas are im­por­tant to meet the grow­ing de­mand from lonely se­niors with low in­comes, they may meet some prob­lems in serv­ing the in­creas­ing high-end de­mand from the grow­ing mid­dle class.

“Mid­dle-class peo­ple usu­ally re­spect their do­mes­tic work­ers. How­ever, they­may get into dis­putes with them as they have high re­quire­ments for their hired help,” said Tang.

Chen Jiyan, a pro­gram of­fi­cer for do­mes­tic work­ers at Bei­jing Hongyan So­cial Work Ser­vice Cen­ter, said the lack of train­ing for do­mes­tic work­ers is a long-stand­ing prob­lem. She once at­tended a train­ing class for do­mes­tic work­ers when she was do­ing re­search, but found the teacher only asked the stu­dents to note down what she had in­cluded in her Pow­erpoint slides without of­fer­ing any fur­ther ex­pla­na­tion.

Chen said some do­mes­tic work­ers don’t even know how to use home ap­pli­ances, let alone know how to make West­ern desserts or pas­tries.

Han, the Wuhan en­gi­neer, said many of the do­mes­tic work­ers she had hired to do the cook­ing didn’t know how to use the oven, and they cleaned non­stick pans with steel wool, dam­ag­ing them.

“Ev­ery time, I have to train them how to use our home ap­pli­ances be­fore they start their work,” Han said.

Without enough train­ing, do­mes­tic work­ers have to meet the per­son­al­ized needs and high re­quire­ments of the fam­i­lies they work for.

In­re­sponse to the grow­ing de­mand for do­mes­tic helpers, some col­leges have launched do­mes­tic ser­vice ma­jors to build up a tal­ent pool for the in­dus­try. Chen, how­ever, doubts many of the stu­dents who study the ma­jor will work in the in­dus­try.

“The do­mes­tic ser­vice in­dus­try is promis­ing, but there is still so­cial dis­crim­i­na­tion against the job,” she said.

PHO­TOS BY ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

Do­mes­tic work­ers use dolls to prac­tice how to teach ba­bies to walk dur­ing a train­ing course in Bei­jing.

Cen­ter: A class is held to im­prove do­mes­tic work­ers’ cook­ing skills. Above: Fu­ture do­mes­tic work­ers learn clean­ing skills

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