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Lunar New Year bring shortage in domestic workers

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BEIJING >> Along with the traditional display of fireworks, China’s Lunar New Year brings an annual shortage in domestic workers as millions of migrants head home for the country’s most important holiday.

The housing service industry in major cities is reporting that the so-called “nanny shortage” has already begun ahead of the Feb. 4 holiday, the China Daily reported Thursday. Known as Chun Jie, or Spring Festival, the new year is the biggest holiday in China and triggers the world’s largest annual migration of people.

Thousands of calls have poured in from families desperately seeking housemaids since November, Hua Xin, general manager for the Shanghai Sheng Hua Home Service Agency, told the newspaper.

“At least three clients are competing for one nanny,” Hua said, adding that even promises to substantially raise salaries aren’t enough to keep the women, mostly from the countryside, from heading home.

The shortage occurs every year as the mostly female domestic work force travels for what is typically their only trip home.

In Zhongshan, a city in the southern manufacturing heartland of Guangdong province, house service companies estimated there is a shortage of 10,000 housekeepers, China Daily said.

Though domestic workers don’t command high salaries, they have the upper hand at this period, Mo Xiaoying, head of the Guangzhou Home Service Association, was quoted as saying.

“In this industry, it is those who work as housekeepers who enjoy comparatively more liberty,” said Mo. “They have a say in choosing employers and they can decide how long they want to work for them.

Yang Huaqin, a housekeeper working in Shanghai, said her employer promised to raise her salary by 20 percent if she would stay through the holiday but she has decided to return home anyway.

“I just can’t stay,” she said.

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