The booming domestic service industry, which has close bearing on people’s lives, has become a new economic growth point.
China’s aging population is expanding fast, with the number of people aged 80 and above growing at an average annual rate of 8 to 10% and that of disabled people surging to 80million. A survey by the China Family Service Association shows that of the 190 million urban families in China, 15% are in dire need of domestic help. Of the 6 six million households in Beijing, at least 2 million are desperate for domestic help, yet there is a shortfall of 1.5 million domestic workers.
As 90% of domestic workers in China come from the countryside, they will have to go back home during public holidays and busy farming seasons, thus exacerbating the shortage of domestic helpers.
In 2013, there were 600,000 domestic service enterprises around the country, with a combined workforce of 18 million and an annual revenue of 192 billion yuan. Although the domestic service industry maintained an annual growth rate of 20%, it was saddled with problems, restricting its growth.
Lack of regulation in the domestic industry often leads to vicious competition. The threshold of market access for the domestic service enterprises is so low that the good and bad are intermingled. Some unlicensed intermediaries disturb market order, rendering it impossible to protect the rights and interests of both employers and employees. As domestic service companies not only have to compete for customers but also domestic workers, they invariably resort to dishonesty and undercut each other.
Low degree of professionalism in the industry leaves workers without protection. Enterprises in China’s domestic service industry provide job opportunities and charge intermediary fees in one lump-sum, yet none of them offers proper training. The majority of workers in the industry have no insurance, be it health, property damage, or whatever, and there is no guarantee of occupational health and safety for most of them.
New Legal Standards in Pipeline
Demand for domestic service has been soaring in recent years, leading to calls to improve the supply of domestic helpers and to enhance standardization and professionalism in the industry.
This year, the Ministry of Commerce will urge the country’s top legislature to promulgate legal standards for the domestic service industry. The ministry will also speed up the building of a credit system and establish a sound credit record system for domestic service companies and workers.