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Why a maid in Manhattan doesn’t come easy

world Updated: Dec 19, 2013 01:17 IST
maids in manhattan

In an article last year, The Best Nanny Money Can Buy, the New York Times profiled Brazil-born Zenaide Muneton, a Manhattan domestic, who “commanded around $180,000 a year – plus a Christmas bonus and a $3,000-a-month apartment on Central Park West.”

Muneton was a supernanny, valued accordingly by her billionaire employer. But in Manhattan salaries for nannies and housekeepers leave the federal and state-mandated minimum wage far behind.

The Queens-based Tami’s Agency, which also supplied domestic help to Manhattan’s elite, offers an insight on weekly payment for nannies, based on experience: “Less than two years verifiable child care experience — $350-$500 live-in; $10-$12 hour live-out. With two or more years verifiable child care experience — $500-$700 live-in; $10-$18 hour live-out. Two or more years of nanny experience, and/or a college degree in a child-related field — $600-$1,000 live-in; $15-$25 hour live-out.” Prospective employers are told to “offer health insurance, paid vacation, a trip home to visit family, tuition assistance if appropriate.”

Manhattan-based Greenhouse Agency has various listings for live-out housekeepers, for an approximate annual salary of $65,000. The ABC Nanny Source stipulates that “full-time experienced nannies are generally paid a weekly salary versus an hourly rate, and is often anywhere from $600 to $900+ per week.”

Of course, a sizeable section of the worker pool comprising illegal immigrants, beyond the reputable agencies, many transactions are often conducted on the basis of off-the-books cash payments.

In 2010, the New York State legislature passed the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which states quite clearly that “These laws cover ALL workers. Their immigration status does not matter.”

How China does it
The Chinese embassies and consulates in the US and other Western countries follow a simple two-level system when it comes to servants for their diplomats.

Junior diplomats are left to fend for themselves. If they want domestic help they pay for it locally out of their own pockets.

Seniors use a pool of Chinese workers who are full-fledged employees of the foreign ministry and have official passports. They work as and when required.

(With inputs by Pramit Pal Chaudhuri)