The story appears on

Page A5

January 21, 2013

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Metro » Education

Help hard to find as ayis leave for holiday

For Hong Yulian, persuading the ayi who lives with her bedridden mother to stay in Shanghai during the Spring Festival holiday is an annual headache.

She's not alone in facing an annual exodus of domestic help. Ayis across the city, who usually come from inland Chinese cities, want to go home to their families during the festival, which starts on February 10 this year.

Hong's mother is bedridden and lives alone. When her ayi is gone, the task of caring for the frail 82-year-old woman falls to Hong and her brothers.

"My mother's ayi has asked for a leave during the upcoming festival, so it's once again time to try to persuade her to stay," Hong said, looking stressed out.

Hong's mother, widowed 17 years ago, has gone through at least 10 ayis.

Last year Hong and her two brothers solved the holiday problem by paying the train fare to bring the ayi's husband to Shanghai for the Spring Festival. They also gave the maid 1,500 yuan (US$241).

Care for elderly hard hit

The Spring Festival is traditionally a time when tens of millions of Chinese head back to their hometowns to celebrate with family and friends.

An estimated two-thirds of the 500,000 ayis working in Shanghai are among them.

The shortages created by such a mass exodus are most keenly felt in the elderly-care sector. Even in the best of times, many ayis are reluctant to take work that involves caring for an elderly family member living alone.

Many expat families come to rely heavily on the hired help and find themselves at sea when ayis leave for the holidays.

Indian Raj Khurana, who has lived in Shanghai for about five years, said his family's domestic helper will be taking 15 days' leave for the Spring Festival.

He said his family often takes the opportunity of her absence to go on a trip at the same time, but if they can't leave for work-related reasons, they simply all pitch in and do the household chores.

Better pay for staying in city

Some ayis are savvy enough to realize they can earn more money when domestic help is in such short supply.

One of them is Zhang Cuifeng, an Anhui Province migrant who now lives in Shanghai with her husband and son. She cares for a partially paralyzed elderly man. Zhang plans to wait until the Qingming Festival in April to go back to Anhui for a family reunion.

"I can earn more staying here during the Spring Festival and save myself all the trouble of standing in long lines for a railway ticket," she said. Zhang's employer, Wu Juechen, said her father's former ayi left about a month ago because another household offered higher pay.

"It is particularly difficult to hire an ayi to take care of seniors during the festival because many return home," Wu said. "Those who decide to stay get higher pay, which drops again once the holiday is over and hordes of migrant workers return to the city."

Local domestic help agencies have been strapped trying to cope.

Liu Yuxin, director of the Shunhang Domestic Helper Agency in Minhang District, has been traveling in Jiangsu, Henan and Anhui provinces in search of temporary ayis willing to work in the city during the festival. She offered high holiday pay and the prospects of continuing work after the holiday.

The agency has received more than 20 calls seeking temporary workers, and the peak of calls is expected from February 1-10, Liu said. Only about 60 percent of demand can be met.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend