Sun, Oct 16, 2005 - Page 17 News List

It's a woman's life

As more mothers return to work, the opportunities on offer are limited and the pay is often low

By Derek Lee  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fu Mei-hui(傅美妃)used to run a drug store with her husband in Sanchung City(三重市), Taipei County. After her husband decided to fold up the business five years ago, she turned to the Peng Wan-Ru Foundation (PWR Foundation, 彭婉如文教基金會), an organization partly funded by the government which helps woman find employment mainly as baby-sitters and housekeepers by offering training courses, for help.

Baby-sitting has traditionally been a means by which married women can earn a modest wage. Working parents usually leave their children at the baby-sitter's home, sometimes over night, and pick up their offspring after work.

Fu, now in her early fifties, has raised three children of her own and thus felt confident about her ability to take care of other people's babies.

The PWR's intensive training program cost Fu NT$6,000 and consisted of lectures by doctors, head nurses and other medical experts and a stint in a children's hospital so her competence and childcare skills could be evaluated. The program lasted approximately three months and included a total of 100-hours of training.

The PWR Foundation started the program in 1998 and has trained more than 4,000 women nation-wide in child-raising skills.

Fu received thorough training and a certificate proving her abilities before she began working as a professional caregiver. However, Fu's hard work did not reap immediate benefit. Sanchung is populated by predominately lower-income families that generally cannot afford to hire baby-sitters.

After a few months, Fu decided to take a housekeeping course in an attempt to take advantage of a niche in the labor market that has been booming in Taipei and other cities in Taiwan.

The hard work paid off. Fu was employed immediately after the course and now works five days a week for four hours each day for a family in Taipei. Fu also provides baby-sitting services for the family and earns an average monthly wage of between NT$20,000 and NT$25,000.

Fu's case is not an exception. Hsue Ming-chu(薛明珠) is a high school graduate in her late thirties. She comes from a poor family in Taipei and married an ironsmith. She has two young children, aged seven and five, and works six days a week as a housekeeper, dividing her time between 12 families in the greater Taipei area.

Hsue is satisfied with her job, which she has been doing for the last three years and which earns her some NT$40,000 per month, more than many university graduates earn.

She said she'd like to work as much as possible while she is physically able to save enough money for her children's education.

Doing what you know best

Liu Pei-ling(劉珮玲), now in her

forties, was a book-keeper for many years and is raising two children of her own, aged 17 and 11.

She decided to stay at home to care for her children after the birth of her second child. Liu returned to the job market two years ago as a baby-sitter.

Liu regularly cared for two, sometimes three, infants which earned her approximately NT$30,000 per month.

But since last year business has been slow and Liu currently cares for only one child, which has drastically reduced her income.

Both Liu and Fu complained about the negative media coverage of baby-sitters prompted by the mistreatment of children by unqualified caregivers.

"It seems to me that the media is biased against the profession. There are many well-trained and responsible baby-sitters who deserve proper news coverage as well. A few bad apples should not tarnish the image of babysitters as a group. Responsible parents should employ qualified baby-sitters to look after their children," said Liu.

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