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2020-07-30 09:41:38

Shanghai Open University plans to offer an undergraduate degree in housekeeping, becoming the city’s first school to introduce such a program, the state-run China News Service reported Wednesday.

Xu Hongzhuo, deputy director of the school’s education department, told the media outlet that the new degree will help establish more professional, well-rounded housekeepers. He added that most housekeepers — colloquially known as ayi, or “aunties” in Chinese — are migrant workers from rural areas, few of whom have high school diplomas.

“There is a clear demand for housekeepers with high skills and good service quality,” Xu told China News Service. “Housekeepers who receive professional training will land better jobs and improve the overall quality of the market.”

Established in 2014 as a vocational program, the housekeeping curriculum at Shanghai Open University includes skills such as cooking, baking, and cleaning, as well as theoretical training in sociology and psychology. The school is expanding the program into an official undergraduate major, with possible enrollment starting as early as the next academic year, according to the media report.

The school’s public relations manager told Sixth Tone that the program is still waiting for governmental approval, without elaborating.

With an annual expansion rate of 20%, housekeeping is becoming a lucrative business in China. Last year, housekeepers in major cities reported average monthly salaries of up to 8,900 yuan ($1,285) — earnings on par with, if not better than, those of many city dwellers.

However, social stigma surrounding the job — which is often associated with illiteracy and poor manners — deter many from pursuing it.

To satisfy growing market demand, the central government in 2019 suggested that each province should have at least one school offering undergraduate degrees in housekeeping or related fields. But such schools remain rare, and some of them have reported difficulty in running the program amid low enrollment rates, citing negative social perceptions of the job.

In 2013, a woman with a master’s degree sparked public debate about the profession after she quit her teaching job to become a housekeeper. And earlier this year, a 32-year-old nanny’s dazzling resume went viral online for including qualifications like a master’s degree, proficiency in two foreign languages, and overseas work experience.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Housekeepers receive professional training during a program in Shanghai, July 2020. From @中新网 on Weibo)