In Lhasa, jobs as nannies are mostly sought and found through relatives, as well as the introduction and recommendation by friends. As a result, there is a continuous flow of young Tibetan women from agricultural and pastoral areas to Lhasa, which has slowly formed a spontaneous but sizable nanny market and workforce. At the homes of Tibetan cadres, workers and local residents, their main responsibilities include rearing children, cleaning, taking care of and accompanying elderly people, and housekeeping. Among the retired Tibetan cadres, workers, local residents with private houses or dual-career Tibetan families with more than two children, most of them hire nannies. Some families even have two to three nannies.
Nannies and their employers are often relatives or acquaintances. Employers generally provide food, shelter, clothing and other basic living conditions for the nannies. Other than that, most of the employers don’t reward this service with an income. However, at the beginning of employment, the employers often promise to help the nannies with their future employment prospects. Thus, after a certain number of years, many of those who become nannies in Lhasa are able to settle in the city, find stable and suitable jobs, marry city people, or even start their own independent business to make a living.
The economic development of Lhasa city, the people’s lifestyle, and the changes and improvement of living standards are related to needs of this career. Today, some middle-aged and young Tibetan families with dual-careers not only have to face the pressure of work or studying, but also have to bear the task of raising 2-3 children. Therefore, they have to hire nannies to help them take care of their children. Moreover, due to the overall improvement in the economy and living stardards in the city, many families with private homes need someone to keep and clean the house, as well as take care of the elderly people.
The current cost of employing a nanny in Lhasa City is relatively cheap. In addition, many of the nannies are personally employed by relatives, such as their own brothers and sisters or introduced to friends. This not only makes it easy to get nannies, but it also creates a less stressful living situation and doesn’t bring a great financial burden or other difficulties to the city households.
Third, the backward economy of agricultural and pastoral areas is also the main driving force for the flow of labor from the countryside to the city. People from agricultural and pastoral areas aspire to live in the city: they are eager to settle down after entering the city, to find a good and stable job and improve their lifestyles.
Therefore, the idea of entering the city as a nanny has become a way of changing the fates of rural women and a way of pursuing benefits for their own homes.
The kind, simple and hard-working nature of the Tibetan people are additional factors that contribute to the formation of the nanny market. In general, all the city people wish to help their relatives in the argricultural and pastoral areas to improve their living standard. “Letting them come out of countryside” and “good ways out in the city” have become important reasons for hiring nannies. In some cases, those coming from the rural and pastoral areas help their city relatives completely free of charge.
The formation of the nanny market in Lhasa City is also related to the original history and customs of Tibet. This career path is not necessarily a new one: in the past, people with certain economic strength had the custom of hiring nannies or servants to take care of household chores.
[Characteristics of the Tibetan nannies]:
1. Tibetan nannies are mainly from agricultural and pastoral areas in the TAR, and are mostly women. Current nannies in Lhasa are mostly from agricultural and pastoral areas of the autonomous region but generally come from all over the region. In general, they come through the connections of relatives or fellow-townsmen, so the ethnic constitution is all Tibetan. It is a female dominated occupation, with women accounting for 97.3% of the nanny population in the inflow population of Lhasa, which is related to the nature of the work and the requirement of the work.
2. Nannies are usually young, with no education and no vocational skills or training. The Tibetan nannies in Lhasa are often in their teens, a period during which they should receive compulsory education. Instead they give up the educational opportunities and enter the city as nannies, so the overall “quality” of the nannies is usually not high.
3. As the nannies continue their stays in Lhasa, some of them eventually become parmenent residents. Around 90% of nannies working in Lhasa have stayed in Lhasa for more than three years. Before arriving in Lhasa, they worked mostly as farmers and herdswomen, and after a few years or even ten years later, a considerable number of them try to think of ways through various channels to get city household registration, marry, find another job, or start self-employed business to remain in the city, and no longer return to their original home. In the recent years, some Tibetan nannies from Sichuan even traveled to Beijing and were welcomed.
4. Tibetan nannies have gone abroad. In the USA, there are housekeepers from all over the world, such as from Philippines, Jamaica, West Indies, Nepal, Poland or elsewhere, and the selection of nannies is incredibly diverse. In these years, Chinese–speaking nannies from China have become less popular. At present, the most popular nannies in the USA are Tibetan nannies and they are in high demand in New York City. Americans say Tibetan nannies are very reliable, but also, because they are followers of Buddhism, they can help the spiritual development of the children.
5. Tibetan women are kind and loyal nannies. Tibetan nannies are very popular, because they assimilate easily and quickly into the home of the employer. Also, the nannies’ kindness and sense of responsibility in their care of the children are no different than that of mothers taking care of their own children. They are clean, orderly, loyal and reliable with hard-working spirit, embodying the cultural treasure and ethnic product of inherited cultural values of Tibet.
Menghuan Gesang (Eng: Dream Illusion) is a blogger on Tibetan Culture Website (www.tibetcul.com). He discusses various topics on the blog, such as environmental issues, the economic development of TAR, Tibetan Mastiffs and so on.
(Translated by Reb Sa)