Nanny industry criticized after family murdered in own home

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/28 19:23:39

A view of the burned luxury apartment of the family murdered by their nanny in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, 22 June, 2017. Photo: IC

A nanny who recently murdered the three children she was paid to care for along with their mother by setting fire to the family's luxury apartment in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, has put China's chaotic housekeeping market under intense scrutiny.

Local police announced Wednesday that they have arrested the nanny on charges of arson and theft. The authorities said that the victims were pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Two boys aged six and 11, and their nine-year-old sister, were found lying beside their mother when firefighters broke into the four-bedroom apartment. The woman's husband was away on business, local media said.

The nanny, who was named as Mo Huanjing by The Beijing News, was reportedly hired by the family through a Shanghai housekeeping agency last year, and seemingly got on well with her employers. They paid Mo a monthly salary of 7,500 yuan ($1,097), invited her to their friends' parties and even lent her 100,000 yuan to buy a house.

But Mo was allegedly addicted to gambling and in trouble with loan sharks. She came to Hangzhou from her hometown of Dongguan, Guangdong Province, and it is suspected that she was fleeing her creditors.

The tragedy has drawn wide public outcry. The hashtag "Hangzhou nanny sets apartment on fire" generated 200 million views on Weibo by press time, with netizens posting more than 132,000 comments.

Many netizens criticized Mo's cruelty and blamed the chaotic housekeeping market in which nanny agencies do not do enough to vet nannies.

Low threshold

"The most important requirement is that you are willing to be a nanny," a manager surnamed Gao at a domestic worker company in Beijing's Tongzhou district told a Global Times reporter posing as a jobseeker.

Generally, potential nannies need to have a health certificate which only shows blood test results and a valid ID, but according to Gao, the health certificate is not a necessity.

"We don't have any kind of psychological tests or interviews for jobseekers, whether you can get on with your employer matters more," Gao said.

She said that the company would make a follow-up call to both the family and the nanny after setting up the two parties, but explained "you are pretty much on your own afterwards."

Referring to concerns that nannies may rob or even kill their employers, another housekeeping agency's manager surnamed Zhang in Beijing's Chaoyang district suggested that clients install surveillance cameras to monitor their nanny.

"Our company has several thousand nannies. We have sacked those reported as having bad habits such as petty theft, but none were found of serious problems," Zhang said, admitting that the company never vets their nannies in advance.

Several housekeeping agencies contacted by the Global Times share the same operation pattern. Most agencies suffer from a shortage of nannies and seldom vet their background or criminal record, Cao Yang, spokesperson for the Jiangsu Province Home Service Association, told the Nanjing-based Modern Express.

But Jiangsu established a public service platform in February, which offers nannies work experience and provides a list of "black nannies" who were complained about by their previous clients, according to Cao. Clients and housekeeping agencies can check how nannies were rated by previous clients and agencies, the report said. 

Turn to a profession

Demand for nannies has grown significantly in recent years with the aging of society, the development of the market-oriented economy and relaxed family planning policies, Zhu Lijia, professor from the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times.

As demand has increased, so have the number of crimes being reported.

A domestic worker was sentenced to death in Guangdong in 2016 for murdering her 70-year-old employer by feeding her poisoned soup and then strangling her to death. She also allegedly attempted to kill nine other employers, but no charges were filed due to a lack of evidence, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"The occurrence of such cases is partially due to the widening urban-rural income gap, and some people from rural areas, who make up the majority of nannies, hate city residents," Hu Xingdou, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, told the Global Times.

China's Gini coefficient, a gauge of wealth inequality, was 0.465 in 2016, making it one of the countries with the biggest gap between rich and poor, the Economic Information Daily reported in June.

Another reason is the unregulated nanny market, experts said.

"China should turn it into a profession and set up industry regulations, in which nanny agencies offer trainings, salaries and guarantees rather than only setting up nannies with clients," Hu said.


Newspaper headline: Killer caregiver


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