Once upon a time we were laid off from our summer job as a babysitter. Our employer, an executive with the Philadelphia Zoo (can’t remember her exact position), was pink slipped (vt?) and thanks to trickle down economics we got the phone call next. When you’re a 15-year-old suburban kid that’s really not such a big deal. We think we got a job the next day babysitting some other kids so the whole thing had a happy ending.
But for today’s career nannies—or their laid off employers*—things aren’t so simple.
WSJ: The luxury of household help, often in the form of immigrant labour, blossomed with the thriving economy. Some nannies came to oversee entire households. Now, the dive in the value of stock portfolios and real estate has caused even prosperous families to review their finances and make new plans. People unaccustomed to doing their own housework are dealing with dirty laundry and mowing their own lawns.
…”Household help is one of the first luxuries to disappear from the budget,” says Erin Krex, owner of an agency in Chicago called First Class Care. Betsy Watson, owner of In a Pinch Inc., which supplies household staff to families in 11 New Jersey counties, reports that business is down about 30% so far this year. Annie Davis, chief executive of Annie’s Nannies Household Staffing in Seattle, estimates a drop of 10% so far this year, and says, “It’s going to get worse.”
…“These days, we are doing far more severance agreements and a lot fewer employment agreements,” says Bob King, an attorney in Irvine, Calif., who runs Legally Nanny, a household-employment law firm.
…Maids, butlers and chefs long have served wealthy people in New York, Palm Beach and Beverly Hills. But since the 1990s, household help has become accessible and even de rigueur for many middle-class families. The number of domestic placement agencies jumped to about 500 today from about 30 just 15 years ago. Nanny job listings mushroomed on the Web, and competition for the best help was fierce. Illegal immigrant labour was especially plentiful and cheap.
Silver lining: More jobs for teenagers to learn the value of hard work?
But here’s the most disturbing part: The rise of “nanny shares,” not to mention the term “nanny shares.”
Now, the boom that was many years in the making is deflating in an instant. Waiting rooms at agencies in Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle are packed with these foreign workers, but prospective employers are in short supply. Financially pinched families are scaling back nanny hours, seeking “nanny shares” or reluctantly adding their children’s names to waiting lists at day care centres.
A “nanny share” ad placed by Michael Fields on Craigslist in Los Angeles reads, “The recent economy woes have me taking less of a salary…” Mr. Fields, manager of a window-manufacturing company, says his six-figure salary will be slashed by 45% come January. For his 6-month-old baby girl, Brooklyn, “we didn’t want to do the day-care thing, and now we’re having to look at different options.”
*My employer’s husband was a wealthy lawyer so they were just fine.