China's big cities, like Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin, will face a shortage of housemaids as many tend to return to their homes for the traditional Spring Festival holiday.
North China's Tianjin Municipality has nearly 100,000 housemaids, but 70 percent of them are returning home for the holiday at the end of the month.
Half have already left and the rest have asked for leave, said a representative of Tianjin Domestic Service Corporation, which organizes the most housemaids in the city.
Under such circumstances, the company has sent letters asking for help to major housemaid sources in Henan, Gansu and Shandong provinces.
In recent days, two groups of housemaids have arrived, and most of them found jobs within half a day.
The high demand in the holiday period has boosted payment for housemaids by 25 percent to 30 percent.
Li Dajing, deputy head of the Beijing Municipal Domestic Economics Association, said she personally led a delegation to southwest China's Sichuan Province in the first half of December to discuss the possibility of introducing up to 500 housemaids to Beijing.
However, only 60 women came to Beijing. For the Spring Festival period, the association plans to attract 3,000 housemaids from the province.
"It's hard to get so many helpers at the moment," said Song Rui, general manager of the Chengdu Anwei Domestic Service Company.
Song attributed the failure to the traditional idea of staying at home at Spring Festival and the disdain in which much of Chinese society holds toward the domestic service sector.
Li said Beijing needs 30,000 domestic service workers and the number keeps rising.
In 2004, the Spring Festival, one of the most important Chinese occasions for gatherings of family and friends, falls on Jan. 22.
Experts suggest urban laid-off workers should take the opportunity to get work. Tianjin Domestic Service Corporation and other service agents have promised to waive registration and agent fees for those who are willing to try. After full registration, the company will also help them to get insurance for accidental injury.
In Beijing, more than 30 domestic service companies have resorted to opening special phone services to attract urban unemployed, who will be given jobs after receiving professional re-employment guidance.
It is estimated that 223,000 households in Beijing will hire full-time domestic helpers, and another 225,000 will employ part-time housemaids next year.
(Xinhua News Agency January 4, 2004)