When the Chinese government abolished its one-child policy at the beginning of this year, it marked a turning point, not just for prospective parents longing to expand their families, but also for one particular occupation: nannying. Without a fear of fines, mandatory sterilisation or forced abortions, families are embracing their right to have a second child and China's baby population has already boomed. The number of babies born in the first half of 2016 rose by 6.9% on the year before, to 8.31 million, and nearly 45% of these were second children, according to the country's National Health and Family Planning Commission. This has created an increased demand for childcare professionals and has turned babysitting into an esteemed career with better pay than some mid-level managerial roles, MailOnline reported. This has made working with children appealing to increasing numbers of women, particularly those from rural China, and institutions teaching people to become qualified nannies – so-called 'nanny universities' – are doing a roaring trade. A series of newly released images show these professional women, many of whom are migrants, learning childcare techniques using plastic dolls in a nanny university in Beijing. The eight-day course teaches childcare, early education, housekeeping, and other domestic skills, and costs US$250 (around £204), which is considered expensive for anyone coming from the countryside, reported MailOnline. However, the potential pay-off is worth it, with many nannies going on to earn 5,000 yuan (£1,822) a month, on top of the free accommodation and meals typically provided by their employers. Tradition dictates that new mothers in China confine themselves to the home for at least 30 days to relax and "recover from childbirth", which opens up ample opportunities for nannies to babysit and take care of housework.
Wang Jiaye, from Shanghai, has a two-year-old daughter and three-month-old son and hired a nanny shortly after giving birth to her second child. She said most mothers hire nannies, particularly after having their first child, to look after their babies during the night, MailOnline reported. The trend for live-in nannies in China stems from "the different parenting philosophies between the young and old generations in China," she said. "Young couples don't want to be influenced by their parents' old-fashioned way of parenting, so they would rather spend money to hire an outsider." Wang also said it was "obvious" to new mothers whether or not a nanny had received training, "especially in the food they prepare and their attitude towards their employers." Frances Chen, a mother of one from Shanghai who hasn't hired a nanny herself, said many working couples don't have time to look after their children and turn to a nanny for help, reported MailOnline. There are also no public nurseries for children under three in China, she said. "Many young parents, who were born in 1980s and 1990s, don't know how to take care of themselves, let alone their child, so they need a professional nanny to help them," she said. "In addition, hiring a nanny is deemed a fashionable lifestyle, that is why more and more families are hiring them, creating the demand." The "universal two-child policy" was intended to alleviate China's ageing population, and while it will be years before these children will contribute to the economy themselves, they have at least helped to ensure that nannies are afforded some long-overdue respect.