Household help, otherwise known as “ayis” (also means “aunties”), are very common. Almost all expat families employ an ayi at least part-time to help with cleaning. Most families with children will have a full-time ayi to help with child-care, cleaning, and cooking. Ayis are also tasked with running domestic errands like paying bills at the bank and picking up kids at school.
Live-in help is an option for those who have extra rooms to spare and whose ayis do not have families of their own to tend to. (Some apartments and homes come with ayi quarters.) Most ayis, however, commute to work by bike or public transportation from their homes outside of the city. The following agenies help place ayis with families:
Ayi / Domestic Help Services:
- Beijing EX-PATS Service: http://www.expatslife.com (6438 1634). Provides maid and nanny services as well as car/driver services.
- Merryhome Ayi: http://www.merryhome.com.cn/eng/ (6461 2979). Provides ayi service, regular home cleaning, and babysitters.
Other ways to find an ayi:
However, most matches are made through personal connections from other expats.
- Some places to look for ayis are postings on City Weekend (http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/) and TheBeijinger (http://www.thebeijinger.com) classifieds. Another place to check is on public forums hosted by these sites, as well as on Beijing-Kids (http://www.beijing-kids.com/).
- Flyers posted at local Jenny Lou’s supermarkets can also work wonders in finding an ayi whose family is planning to return to their home country.
- Networking meetings and other social outings also provide an outlet to ayi-referrals. Asking around at playgroups, social gatherings, newcomer meetings, and neighborhood functions is a sure why to make appropriate connections. Ayis already employed by others may have friends or relatives that they would like to refer to a new employer.
Salary range for ayis:
Please be aware that this can be a sensitive topic because some expats believe that certain ayis are overpaid in certain circumstances, and some believe they are underpaid in other circumstances. Usually, however, the range has to do with location, household size, and expected role in the household. Generally, ayis working in a large house in the Shunyi suburbs will earn more than one working in an apartment in the city.
Hourly rates run about 15 RMB for a Chinese cleaning ayi with no English skills. Monthly salaries for a full-time ayi who works about 40 hours a week ranges from about 1,600 RMB per month to 3,500 RMB per month. This depends on whether the ayi is tasked with cooking, childcare, petcare, etc. Often, an ayi will earn a salary increase in each subsequent year of work equaling about 1,000 RMB more per month.
Most families also give their ayis time off during all the Chinese holidays, sometimes a few weeks during the summer, and a “red envelope” during the Chinese New Year which is considered her “bonus”. This is generally equivalent to one month’s pay.