left corner left corner
China Daily Website

Outsourcing from cradle to grave

Updated: 2012-10-29 15:30

In modern China, you can find any service as long as you are willing to pay for it.

Tasks and chores once endured by all from the cradle to the grave can now be outsourced in a flash to a growing list of services.

From baby-sitting to baby naming, parties, wedding ceremonies, caring for the elderly and then preparing their departure.

Outsourcing from cradle to grave

A doctor specializing in obstetrics and gynaecology gives a lecture to domestic helpers on how to take care of newborn babies in Chaohu, a city in Anhui province. [Provided to China Daily]

Liu Kaiwen, came to Beijing four years ago, a single man working in the advertising industry. He employs a maid, or Ayi, Xiao Juan to do housework so as that he can focus on his work.

The first time he saw Xiao four years ago, he was surprised by her age - just around 20.

Three times a week, Xiao cleans, irons clothes and feeds the dog for 900 yuan($144) a month.

"I'm not at home in day so my dog will be very lonely. The Ayi looks after it and decides what to feed it, how and when," said Liu.

Liu is not alone in his quest to ease the burden of a busy work life.

When a professor at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing, who was also in charge of two TV programs in Beijing Television, had a second baby in 2010, she was so busy she decided to employ a nanny to help.

The nanny, from Shanxi province who has never been to Beijing, is paid 3,000 yuan a month and lives in her employer's home.

Aged over 50, she is mainly in charge of taking care of the baby. She sleeps with the baby and often feeds the boy milk in the early hours. She gets up at 4 am, when she starts her day's work.

But the union has not been without the usual problems that come with hiring home help. "She cooks badly, but we all like her and our baby cannot leave her," said the professor who was not named in the report.

There are 200,000 registered domestic servants like in Beijing. Official statistics show of the 6 million families in the capital, 800,000 families hire domestic services.

"Outsourcing makes life convenient. The time and energy saved can be used in making money or leisure," said Liu Kaiwen.

"In the past, man was in charge of changing light bulb, fixing stool or similar things. Now, a telephone can handle all of them," Liu added.

Famous media CEO Hung Huang wrote in a column in June: "Outsourcing is increasing in our life. Labor is no longer glorious and doing something by yourself seems becoming a symbol of failure."

A study in 2011 showed that 41 percent of office workers were under heavy work pressure and 61 percent suffered from psychological exhaustion in different degrees.

Many relieve stress by outsourcing housework which costs time and energy.

And increasing demand is driving the salary of domestic servants up. In the past four years, nanny salaries doubled, from 1,300 to 2,600 yuan in Beijing.

Arlie R. Hochschild, a sociology professor at the University of California said, "Many people believe that we can manage life like doing business and free markets can coexist with family values. However, the two run in opposite directions. Market needs no sentiments but family needs real sentiments."

"We perceive life from the angle of commercialism and believe happiness and meaning lie in results and forget to enjoy the scenery on the road," Hochschild added.