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.
I have not got your blog in quite awile but hope this is the start again as I really enjoy it
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Thanks, Jian Shuo! This is very interesting information. In particular, you have explained something that will be useful in the work that I do here in the US. I advise international students who have come to our local community college and are writing application essays to transfer to four-year universities. Just this past year, a student wrote, in part, about having been raised by extended family in a village, far away from the city in which his parents lived. Inside my heart, I was quite shocked that parents could possibly do this to a child! It seemed to me that they must not have loved him if they had “abandoned” him that way. But, from what you say, I see now that it could very well have been a loving (and economically essential) decision, and not necessarily an unusual one. It must still be very very difficult for parents to live far away from a child they love. But I can see how, if they have made the decision to move to a large city in order to better themselves and their family economically, it might even be better for the child to be raised by other family members in a more rural village setting. Wow! Tough choices!! Thank you again for enlightening me on this subject :-)
In my opinion, we, Chinese, rely too much on the grand-parents to take care of our child(ren). You rarely hear caucasian couples get help from their parents to baby-sit or live in to look after their grand-children full time, no matter how many children the couple have.
Jenn, with all due respect, I think you are very fortunate to be able to do that! My daughter-in-law is from Vietnam, and I have seen the effects of a large and loving family on her baby niece and small nephew. When we first met them, I am ashamed to say I had a strange feeling that their family relationships were somehow *too*close. I worried just a little that our son might not fully understand the differences between our cultures and what he was “getting himself into”. What I discovered, and now firmly believe, is that he (and, by warm extension, we too!) have been welcomed into the heart of a most wonderful family where there is always someone to help when help is needed. For health reasons, it may not be possible for my husband and I to be directly involved with caring for our hopefully-future grandchildren. But I have no doubt that they will be well-loved by us all, and nurtured to the fullest by their mother’s side of the family when she goes back to work. It is very difficult, I think, for even the most devoted outside care-giver, to love a child as deeply as their own family does from the moment they are born. A child who experiences that love is blessed beyond measure.
I have a feeling that this may not have been the aspect of relying on family care that you meant to address in your comment, however, and I would be happy to understand more about your reason for feeling the way you do.
Thanks again for posting on this interesting topic, Jian Shuo!
In american, a mom can get 3 months maternity leave if she has a job. No pay but she can apply support from the goverment. Maternity leave is part of handicare program so goverment will cover some of your food and expensive. How about in Chain?
Hi Wang Jian Shuo,
thanks for the interesting post! We’re a bi-national couple (German/Chinese) living in Germany and have a daughter who is about Yifan’s age. Since we both work full-time and since finding childcare for young children in Germany is surprisingly hard, we chose the chinese grand-parent model. They come to Germany for three months and then (due to visa restrictions) go back to Shanghai for the next three months. They are very happy to help us and they’re doing an amazing job, but on the other hand it puts quite some stress on them, even though they would never admit it.
Here’s my question: How would one find a good nanny in Shanghai? How did you find yours? We’re considering to hire some support while our daughter is in Shanghai, but we don’t know what’s the best way to find someone we can trust.
Thanks, and happy niu year ;-)
This is the same problem every couple is facing. Perhaps you can hire
a foreign maid, but they will cause other problems again..
example.. child abuse, kidnap, stealing, etc..
Perhaps you are the person I am looking for…. I am planing to spend 7 weeks in Shanghai between July and Sep and need to rent a simple clean and not expensive flat. My intention is to take some mandarin classes together with my 2 young boys. Of course we will be doing some sightseeing but all on a tight budget. We are arriving to Macau, from there we will travel to Hong Kong and then take the train to Shanghai. If you have further information on train schedule and ticket prices I would appreciate your help on that front too.
i need a recent jobs in my work taking care of children,,.
Thanks for sharing
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I am looking for 24hr live in child care for my 2 year old son in Shanghai from November ….. if anyone has an recommendations it would be much appreciated. We are English speaking but I am keen he also picks up as much Mandarin as possible. He will attend kindergarten during the mornings but obviously need as much fun as possible for the other hours of the day.
hello Jian Shuo, thanks for haring this info, very useful. i wonder if you would be able to help and sugest something for me. I meant to travel to shaghai with my husband but unfortunately he cannot now fly with us, he has to change his tickets and will join us only on the last day to fly on to Europe with us. We live in the Cook Islands. our daughter Haumea goes to a small childcare here, they accept children 1 year old and older. She will be 15 months when i will be in shaghai but she is has been walking since 10.5, feeding herself, using toilet etc. i need a childcare for only 5 days or a nanny. I am freaking out about being with the baby on my own in a strange place after really long flights. I will be staying in Renmin Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai 200010, China (Yu Garden). Because of the extra costs to change flights we cannot really afford the hotel babysitter I don’t think so if you knew of a place near my place who would accept 1,5 year olds or a babysitter who would come to the hotel or lives nearby and charges the amount similar to what you explained or has a per day rate this would be so helpful. Hope to hear from you soon. kindest regards, bella and haumea