As a growing number of males join the trade, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) now plans to change the official term for “babysitter” in Chinese, baomu (保母) — which literally means “caring mother” — to tuoyu renyuan (托育人員) — or “childcare personnel.”
The term baomu is the one most commonly used to refer to babysitters, but the ministry’s Child Welfare Bureau believes that it is not neutral enough and thus wants it to be changed.
According to a Chinese dictionary published by the Ministry of Education, the term baomu was a title given to females taking care of children of royal families in ancient China and first appeared in the Book of Rites, which is over 2,000 years old.
“We’ve changed the word baomu to tuoyu renyuan in a draft amendment to the Regulations Governing Qualifications and Training of Professional Staff in Juvenile Institutions (兒童及少年福利機構專業人員及資格訓練辦法) because there are more and more males joining the profession and we feel that it would be more appropriate to use a gender-neutral term for the profession,” the bureau’s director-general Chang Hsiu-yuan (張秀鴛) said.
According to official figures released by the bureau, a total of 14,794 people became qualified babysitters last year, of which 115 are male.
“It was actually the Taipei Association for Childcare Personnel that first made the suggestion, and we think it’s a good idea,” Chang said, adding that changing the term is a friendly and welcoming gesture for more men to join the profession.
Prior to the official proposal to change the term, childcare personnel have already been using the term baoba (保爸) — or “caring father” to refer to male babysitters, Chang said.
Chang said that she would speak with other government institutions — such as the Council of Labor Affairs, which oversees childcare personnel certification — to see if the new neutral term could replace the old one in all official documents and laws.