POPULAR NANNIES: A group of domestic caregivers coming from north China's Jilin Province arrive at Beijing railway station in May this year
An article titled I Want to Resign to Be a High-Salary Nanny was a hot topic on the Tianya forum, a social Internet platform. Many users believed that nannies' salaries have risen faster than inflation.
Average monthly salaries for domestic care workers, such as nannies, maids and nurses, have grown from around 1,500 yuan ($234.81) early this year to 2,500 yuan ($391.85). In addition, many aging people worry that they cannot afford in-home services relying on only their pensions.
Mr. Wang, reluctant to disclose his whole name, hired a nurse, Ms. Liu, at a monthly salary of 1,800 yuan ($281.78) in October 2010, and increased her salary to 2,300 ($360.50) yuan in February 2011, in addition to an 800 yuan ($125.39) hongbao, or bonus for Spring Festival. After that the nurse still required a further raise, so Wang decided to hire another, but he didn't expect that the lowest wage would be even higher.
A few days ago, a domestic caregiver service franchise, Ainong, listed only prospective clients, but no domestic caregivers, just an anticipation of an arriving group of domestic workers from west China's Gansu Province. Monthly salaries ranged from 3,000 yuan ($470.22) to 4,000 yuan ($626.96) for nannies, and 2,300 yuan ($360.50) to 2,800 yuan ($438.87) for elderly care, according to Ainong.
In July this year, the Beijing Municipal Government announced a guideline for around-the-clock domestic caregivers, asserting that nannies' salaries should be under 1,800 yuan ($262.13), geriatric caregivers' salaries should be below 2,500 yuan ($391.85). Ainong employees said that they could not recruit nannies in accordance with this stipulation.
Nannies themselves often disclose how much they earn to their peers, prompting demands for raises. Skilled housekeepers may be invited by another employer who would offer her a much higher salary. These phenomena indicate that Beijing's demand for domestic caregivers outpaces supply.
A general manager of the Beijing Jinzhuyou Housekeeping Co., said, "It is no exaggeration that Beijing residents will not be able to afford elder caregivers in five years." While the rural population has entered old age, people are reluctant to go to cities as domestic workers. Young people born after the 1980s and 1990s often avoid this kind of job.
The company employed 30,000 domestic workers in 2000, but only 6,000 in 2010, and merely 3,000 this year, he said. "Last year, I spent 100,000 yuan in advertising and recruitment, but only found three," he said.
Information from labor markets this year showed that apart from nannies, other jobs like security guards, clothes sewers, and cleaning workers are in short supply, despite the allure of higher wages and highly improved work conditions. Service industry workers are demanding higher wages, and these jobs also shrunk the domestic caregiver market and widened the deficit.
Being a domestic caregiver is not a favorable job in Beijing. Many rural women would prefer to be waitresses.
"As a waitress, I can enjoy working with companions of my age," said a girl from east China's Shandong Province, who was receiving a physical examination at Beijing No. 2 Hospital with some of her coworkers. Following the check-up, they would wait tables for 1,500 yuan ($235.11) per month, plus benefits not enjoyed by domestic caregivers."That kind of treatment is not bad compared to domestic caregivers, who may be bullied by their hosts," she said.
Communication problems between caregivers and employers have existed for years, and improved little at present, becoming one of the key factors in the domestic caregiver shortage.
Sharp conflicts often occurred between elderly employers and nurses in terms of living habits. If one domestic caregiver was bullied in an employer's home, she would have passed the message to the whole village, warding them away from the career. This vicious cycle leads to even greater scarcity.
Domestic workers have insurmountable barriers preventing them from enjoying social insurance.
Last week, the Beijing Municipal Government put forward a measure stipulating that housekeeping companies should sign contracts with employees and pay social insurance for them. However, the regulation required that applicable businesses should have at least 500,000 yuan ($78,370) of registered capital.
An unnamed official at the Beijing Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security disclosed that there are more than 3,800 such businesses in Beijing, and only a few of them meet that requirement.
Xie Lihua, director of the Culture Development Center for Rural Women, said, "Family services are no longer cheap commodities every one can afford. Now they are a luxury."