I tend to use the title of Child Care in China, but at second thoughts, the varity of how people handle their childcare differs so greatly from city to city, from city to villages, and from north to south. I would rather only talk about Shanghai.
Family Structure in China
With the implementation of One Child Policy, most of the families in China is three person family: wife, husband, and child. If you include the extended family, there are parents for both of the couple, which is 7 in total.
The other fact is, women in China works. Although cited as a key indicator of equal opportunity employment and equality between male and female, that is also the economy choice since very few household can hand it with only one person working.
The public holiday for mom is 4 months after the child is born. That means, when the child is 4 month old, the month has to go back to work. It is still a stage the child needs breeding. It is possible to extend the vacation to 12 months, but the mother risks her job – the first 4 months are popular, but not many people extend their vacation.
In China, the tradition is big family, and the child care responsibility easily and naturally fall to the grandparents when the parents need to go to work, while most grandparents already retire. It is both emotional needs that the child is brought up by the grandparents; it is also the most economical method. I would argue that the society needs to take more responsibility on this so the grandparents can have more freedom in doing things they really like (taking care of child is interesting, and rewarding, but there are still pretty hard work involved).
For parents who live far away from their parents, or the health condition of grandparents do not permit them to take care of the child, there are not many choices left.
Most family with just husband and wife, the little child needs someone to take care of.
The standard rate for Nanny (or Ayi) in Shanghai in normal times is 10 RMB (or 1.5 USD) per hour (it was 7 RMB before when I wrote this blog entry: Life in a Low Cost Labor World). That means, if you hire a nanny to help to take care of our child, you pay 80 RMB or 1600 RMB for the month. Typically, the rate is lower if you hire someone full time on monthly basis, instead of by hour.
If you hire a full time nanny to take of the child, it cost a little bit more – around 2000 RMB (250 USD) per month. We used this option. The nanny stay at your home and take care of the child 24 hours day. You can choose to ask the child to sleep with the nanny, or with us (Now Yifan sleeps with us).
Although the rate is not significant higher than by hour or day-time child care, the nannies can save a lot on housing and meal which may be paid by themselves otherwise. Typically the 2000 RMB or something can 100% go into their saving account, that they can bring or mail back home at Spring Festival…
For mothers to stay at home is another option, but very few of my friends take this option (actually none for native, and two for people who return from US). It is an economic decision since raising a child is pretty expensive, and most people don’t have enough cash to support it when there is only one person working.
The other option is to send the child to child care center. But most of the centers accept 2 years old or above.
I even heard of complain of some of my friends who arrive in Shanghai just like Wendy and I did, and have a child without any help, and they don’t have the money to hire a nanny, and of cause, cannot support one person staying at home. Their choice was to leave Shanghai and getting back to where they originally from.
Another friend of mine sent their child back to their hometown, and their parents take care of the child. This is also popular.
Anyway, having a baby is a big responsibility for the parents, and there is no easy way to handle it. Thanks to the relatively lower cost of child care in China, we can still hire a very good nanny to take care of Yifan.
P.S. The topic is inspired by Carroll’s suggestion about it. Thanks Carroll for bring the good topic.