With the financial crisis' heightening sense of menace, many are reconsidering what they can and can't afford - and employing a nanny at 30,000 yuan ($4,280) a year is falling into the latter category.
With a demanding job working for a multinational company, 27-year-old Ding Ting must now come home from the office and cook, care and clean for her children after being forced to let her nanny go.
"It's a difficult time - every bit counts. After all, it's not a small amount for employing a nanny," Ding said, having relished the services of her nanny for the past two years.
"The possibility of being made redundant has been a sword of Damocles hanging over me since the crisis broke, and the problems are just starting.
"This has brought a huge stress to daily life."
The hurricane howling through the world's financial markets has left an oversupply of nannies in its wake.
A source from a local domestic service company said the city's nanny market had dropped 20 to 30 percent in the past year, with nannies' average salaries also decreasing from 2,000-2,500 yuan to 1,300-1,800 yuan.
The golden era for nannies in the city has come to a shuddering halt, Gong Linfang, president of Shanghai Pudong district domestic service association, said yesterday.
Local government founded the association in March to standardize and develop what was then a booming domestic service industry.
"The boom time for nannies in recent years looks to be ending now," she said.
"Nannies are among the first to be hit when times start to get tough.
It is the hardest year for business of domestic service," she added.
Li Rong, owner of Shanghai-based Laibang Nannies Company, said: "In the last month or two I have started receiving calls from employers saying they will stop employing nannies or switching to employ hourly waged nannies due to the depressed global economy and apprehension about future uncertainties."
Meanwhile, insiders also attribute the current oversupply to a flood of workers laid off as businesses have failed.
"Fees for hourly-waged nannies have decreased from 15 yuan to 12 yuan, and at times even to the low of seven yuan, putting it back by two or three years," said Xiao He, a nanny from Sichuan province with four years experience in home service.
"Normally at this time of the year, a rush of people come and look for nannies. But it hasn't happened yet.
Some nanny companies have teamed up to weather the storm to share information from both employers and nannies in the city.
"That will give us a competitive edge in the shrinking market," Li Rong said.
(China Daily November 12, 2008)