Being part of the aspiring middle class is not easy, Shanghai-based author Paul French knows. Their house keepers – or ayi’s – are hard to get, prices go up and your food gets poisoned, he summarizes the ordeal in the China Economic review.
What a Chinese New Year. It was the first major holiday in China where we really got to see just how a China without a demographic advantage might look – factory workers hard to find, wage demands spiraling and less migration to the cities. Domestic laborers (that’s “ayis” to the Chinese middle class … and you) are at the forefront of the new demographics. There simply isn’t an inexhaustible supply of them anymore. Consequently, they’re a middle-class perk that’s not going to be so abundant and cheap in future.
And the ayis have got the memo!! Want an ayi for just a day or two a week? Forget it, now they increasingly want full-time contracts with benefits. Some people are reporting paying up to RMB3,000 a month (a preposterous and unheard of sum for those old China hands who remember paying RMB3 for taxis, etc). Some especially canny ayis are reportedly asked their employers for a flat RMB10,000 for their thirteenth month. Refuse and the chances of them sticking around are slim to nil, leaving the Chinese middle classes to do their own cleaning, washing and ironing – heavens forefend!! Or more likely, getting their parents to do it.