Do­mes­tic worker num­bers to in­crease as na­tion ages

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By HOU LIQIANG

There are an es­ti­mated more than 20 mil­lion do­mes­tic work­ers in China, most of whom are women, ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished in June last year by the De­part­ment of Trade in Ser­vices and Com­mer­cial Ser­vices of the Min­istry of Com­merce and the Chi­nese Academy of In­ter­na­tional Trade and Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion.

Data from the Na­tional Pop­u­la­tion Cen­sus 2010, the most re­cent cen­sus, shows that there are about 652 mil­lion women on the Chi­nese main­land. This means about one in ev­ery 32 Chi­nese women, no mat­ter how old they are, is a do­mes­tic worker.

And the coun­try’s ag­ing pop­u­la­tion is push­ing the ra­tio even higher. As of the end of 2014, peo­ple age 60 and older had reached 212 mil­lion, which is 15.5 per­cent of China’s to­tal pop­u­la­tion. And the num­ber of se­niors in the coun­try is ex­pected to con­tinue to rise.

Tang Binyao, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of so­cial work at the Univer­sity of Ji­nan, said 16 to 17 per­cent of res­i­dents in Ji­nan, pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal of Shan­dong prov­ince, are older than 60. And there is great de­mand for helpers among th­ese se­nior cit­i­zens, es­pe­cially those who are liv­ing alone.

Tra­di­tion­ally, se­niors tend to refuse to go to nurs­ing homes after re­tire­ment in China, and there are not enough el­derly care fa­cil­i­ties.

The grow­ing mid­dle class is an­other group with ris­ing de­mand for do­mes­tic work­ers, said Chen Jiyan, a pro­gram of­fi­cer for do­mes­tic work­ers at the Bei­jing Hongyan So­cial Work Ser­vice Cen­ter.

The gap be­tween the rich and the poor is grow­ing, and women who would have tra­di­tion­ally cared for the home but now have good jobs are trans­fer­ring this duty to women at the lower end of so­ci­ety, Chen said.

“Peo­ple also don’t trust each other as much as be­fore. While chil­dren younger than 6 might have been left alone or in the care of neigh­bors be­fore, many fam­i­lies now hire do­mes­tic work­ers to take care of them to en­sure their safety,” Chen said.

Gao Xin, au­thor of Bloom­ing Vi­ola Philip­pica: The Oral History of Do­mes­tic Work­ers, said the cheap cost of la­bor in China makes hir­ing do­mes­tic work­ers af­ford­able for many.

“My class­mates in Canada can­not af­ford do­mes­tic work­ers, so they have to do all of house­work them­selves,” she said.

The cur­rent min­i­mum hourly wage for do­mes­tic helpers in On­tario, Canada, is C$12.40 ($9.60) per hour, with the rate ris­ing to C$12.55 per hour on Oct 1, ac­cord­ing to the web­site of the Min­istry of La­bor On­tario.

In Bei­jing, how­ever, a live-in do­mes­tic worker will usu­ally make about 4,500 yuan ($674) a month with four days off. So the hourly wage is only about 21 yuan if they work eight hours a day. It’s not un­usual for them to work more than eight hours a day.

15.5 per­cent of China’s pop­u­la­tion, or 212 mil­lion peo­ple, are age 60 or older at the end of 2014.

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