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February 11, 2014

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Snow delays the return of ayis to city

Heavy snow in neighboring provinces has blocked the return of ayis who went home for the Spring Festival, adding to the burden of domestic helpers in the city.

Nearly half of the ayis haven’t returned to the city, domestic service companies claimed yesterday.

Most of the ayis who work in Shanghai come from snow-stricken areas such as Henan, Anhui and Jiangxi provinces where trains and long-distance buses were either canceled or delayed.

“Employers can hardly wait as they have started working this week and need ayis to take care of their home and children,” said Zhang Jianxia of the Shanghai Qingfeng Elderly Care Service Co in Jing’an District.

Zhang said she has been handling more than 10 calls every day from clients inquiring the status of their ayis. Her company has 260 ayis and half of them will not be back until this weekend.

“I feel tired without an ayi. My husband and I have to cook meals, do the laundry and look after our three-year-old daughter all by ourselves,” Shanghai resident Chen Jie said yesterday.

Chen said her ayi, who hails from Anhui, cooks and cleans the house because her daughter likes to play on the floors. But exhausted after doing most of the daily chores, Chen said they will wait for their ayi to return and mop the floor.

“Ayis are indispensable for many families and this shortage of labor is becoming regular occurrence at this time every year,” said Zhang, who plans to recruit more ayis as demand for them increases with an aging population and couples out at work.

Zhang said the current labor shortage would ease as soon as long-distance transportation returns to normal. What she worries, however, is that some ayis may not come back, leaving her unprepared and looking for others to meet the demand of her clients.

“To avoid the situation, I invited all the ayis to dinner and gave them a travel bag as gifts for the Chinese Lunar New Year,” Zhang said. “I hope this will make them happy, and they will return to work.”

Zhang was hoping that the ayis would convince their fellow villagers to come and work in Shanghai.

The demand for ayis in Shanghai is increasing by 10 to 20 percent every year, according to Xia Jun, who runs the Shanghai Aijun Home Service Company. The agency has over 10,000 ayis, 30 percent of whom are yet to return.



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