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April 16, 2014

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Domestic helpers cash in on rising demand

THE average salary of experienced ayi in Shanghai has increased sixfold over the past decade as workers have become better skilled and highly sought after, a study has shown.

According to a poll of 70,000 registered domestic helpers by industry website, the highest paid group of ayi last year earned between 7,000 (US$1,120) and 10,000 yuan per month.

Workers in this category specialize in caring for newborn babies and generally live with families for the first month after a child’s birth. In 2004, their average monthly pay was between 2,000 and 2,500 yuan, the survey said.

The second category of ayi considered by the poll is the live-in maid, many of whom also care for young children. Their salaries ranged from 4,000 to 6,000 yuan last year, up from 800 to 1,000 yuan in 2004, it said.

The final group is the long-term, hourly paid ayi, whose wages more than doubled to 20 yuan per hour last year, from 8 to 10 yuan in 2004.

The reason for the sharp salary increases is that ayi are now much more in demand than they were 10 years ago, the website’s Zhu Jin said.

They are also much better qualified and play a vital role in supporting new parents, she said.

“The modern ayi attends not only to the children’s daily needs, but will often also act as a private tutor,” Zhu said.

“They are more skilled, so they can demand higher wages. They also work extremely hard,” she said.

Such is the status of today’s ayi that even college and university graduates are entering the profession. According to the website’s poll, more than 12 percent of the ayi currently caring for babies in Shanghai have a college or higher degree.

An ayi with a master’s, for instance, can earn up to 15 percent more than someone who has only a bachelor’s degree, Zhu said.

“People who look after premature babies or twins can also demand a premium, of up to 35 percent,” she said.

Maids with specialist qualifications or domestic service licenses also earn more, while the least well paid are those who care primarily for elderly, according to Zhu.

According to official data, Shanghai has about 500,000 registered domestic helpers, though the actual number of people working as ayi is considerably higher, she said.

Bank worker Pang Hao, who has a 4-year-old son, said that after this year’s Spring Festival holiday he raised his ayi’s salary by 500 yuan a month to 3,500 yuan.

He said he was happy to pay the extra as she has been with the family for many years and knows them all well.

“Like anyone, ayi are entitled to a pay rise, and we think she deserved it,” Pang said.


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