Just a few days ago, about 40 families attended an auction in the Shandong province in east China. They weren’t bidding on cars, clothing or even charitable goods. These folks were placing their bids to find a new nanny for their children.
Nannies went for anywhere from 5,200 to 15,500 yuan (about $850-2,500) in monthly wages. It was all part of a plan to bring some public exposure to the domestic service industry which, if projections are correct, should continue to rise in the coming years.
That’s because China recently passed legislation relaxing the previously strict policies on birth control. More children, along with an increase in urbanization and a strengthening economy, should make the demand for nannies jump as well.
Meanwhile, in England, a study published in early February pointed toward a staggering truth regarding home child care: Au pairs aren’t quite as desirable as they once were. The survey found that over half of all nannies in England are now over the age of 30 and only 1.2% of them were younger than 20. That means English families are now looking more toward women with more experience in child rearing — resulting in typically older women — when it comes to hiring a full-time housekeeper.
According to one nanny agency in London, many of its housekeepers available for hire were over 50, and one was as old as 73, The Telegraph reports. “It’s a career that’s growing in demand every year and is becoming increasingly attractive career option,” said Helen Harvey, who runs payroll at Nannytax, the company that sponsored the survey.
So, this all begs the question: What’s happening with nannies in the United States? That’s exactly what photographer Ellen Jacob sought to find out in her photo series, “Substitutes.”
Jacob collected images of several different nannies on New York City’s traditionally affluent Upper West Side and got their stories. In most cases, they’ve been hired by families to provide care for the children in the absence of their parents (mostly due to work obligations). Hence, they become true substitutes for the parents themselves, providing physical care as well as emotional nourishment.
But is this a good or bad thing? Jacob doesn’t say one way or another, preferring to let the images speak for themselves. Given the recent rise of nannies in China and England, though, it’s likely a trend that won’t soon be fading away.
No matter where you are in the world, some families simply can’t function without a nanny. And if these trends are any indication, you’ll likely have a plethora of housekeepers to choose from for a long, long time — should you need one, of course.