Domestic helper Cai Lianxiang works at a client's house in Beijing earlier this month. She chose to stay in the capital to work during the holiday and will receive extra salary. (Photo by Zhuang Wenbin/For China Daily)
As Spring Festival approaches, many migrant workers have already left Beijing to return to their hometowns for family reunions, and this has left a major shortage in Beijing's domestic helper market.
Wang Yan, a Beijing native, started to search for a housekeeper to take care of her senior father one and a half months before Spring Festival.
"Usually the caregiver that attended to my father would ask for leave before the holiday came, so I planned early to search for potential good fits," said the 58-year-old.
"However, up to four housekeeping companies that I've called said I should call them a week ahead of the Spring Festival and they couldn't promise any," she added, and was told domestic helpers themselves often made final travel plans much closer to the holiday itself.
"I finally gave up hope of finding one and asked my cousin for help to find a nanny to take care of my father."
The high demand for housekeepers has also been witnessed by domestic labor companies as well as a popular housekeeper service platform.
"About 95 percent of our housekeepers returned home in the beginning of February," said Zheng Hongzhong, general manager of Zhongshengmeide, a housekeeping company that assigns 11,000 housekeepers in Beijing. "Since last week, the customer service line rang all day and we didn't have enough housekeepers to fill the demand."
"It's understandable that housekeepers want to go back home to have reunions with their families," Zheng said.
Ayilaile, or "Here comes auntie", is a domestic helper service platform with more than 100,000 registered housekeepers online. There were only about 10,000 housekeepers based in Beijing staying in the capital this Spring Festival, said Li Changze, a spokesman for Ayilaile.
Yin Xiaowei, a 48-year-old housekeeper, is among those who decided to stay in Beijing for the festival for an elderly care job.
Elderly care pays 200 yuan ($32) per day, and Yin expects to earn 3,600 yuan in total for the 15 days of work.
"The client offers twice that of normal days," said Yin, originally from Qiqihar in Heilongjiang province. "This is because during the Spring Festival there is a high demand for housekeepers."
According to a report by the Ministry of Commerce, an estimated 25.4 million people worked in China's domestic service industry in 2016, a rise of 9.3 percent compared with a year earlier.
Demand for domestic workers is massive in China and the industry is expected to reach 224 billion yuan in 2016. The service sector as a whole now contributes the largest portion to national economic development.
However, the uneven development between rural and urban areas has led to unstable development of the domestic helper industry as the mobility of migrant workers easily alters the workplace, according to the report.