Marcia Vélez, a volunteer at the Women's Building community resource room, helps an unemployed woman look for nanny jobs.

En Español

Two dollars per hour or weekly wages of $200 plus trips to Las Vegas don’t sound like payments for quality childcare.  But these are some of the proposals nannies are getting these days.

“[Nannies] are being offered the weirdest incentives,” said Melissa Castillo, director of community programs at the Women’s Building.  “Spirits are down because of the impossible job market.  People know that and are offering incentives instead of payment.”

Not only are fewer families hiring nannies, unemployed teachers and office workers are entering the field offering new competition, according to placement agencies.  The nanny glut has meant lower wages and strange offers.

One woman, who asked that her name not be used, came to the United States from Peru nine years ago and quickly found work for $17 an hour in 2001.   She kept that job until 2009 when the child she cared for turned 10-years-old, and the family decided they didn’t need a full-time nanny.

She’s been looking for work since last November and even having a U.S. passport hasn’t helped in her job hunt.

“What’s happening is really horrible,” she said.  “I thought it was just me but many people have told me they are having problems.”

Jens Hillen, who owns Town and Country Resources, a Bay Area nanny placement agency, with his wife, said the 2008 recession impacted both clients and nannies. Hiring slowed and the number of nanny candidates increased.

Leslie Kline, a placement consultant at Aunt Ann’s In-House Staffing, agreed that more highly educated people are registering for nanny positions.  Many are out-of-work teachers looking for alternatives as unemployment remains close to ten percent in San Francisco County.

Nannies hired through agencies generally earn more than those sought through ads on sites like Craigslist.  Kline said she has finally started to see the minimum rates creep above $20 an hour, but after the recession hit, $20 was on the high end for almost two years. Employment advocates at the Women’s Center say they still see a difficult nanny market.

The unemployed Peruvian woman said she has been on numerous interviews at luxurious homes around the Bay Area.  The parents are lawyers, doctors, and architects who advertise $16 to $20 an hour, but when she arrives for the interview or training, they offer her $8 or $10.

“They tell me the economy is bad,” she said. “And that they’ve found undocumented women that will work for $8 an hour.”

On one interview, she entered an unfurnished house with a mattress and sheet on the floor.  The mother of a three-year-old told her she’d be sleeping there and paid $200 per week.

“I was really shocked because the ad said $15 an hour,” she said. “Then the mother offered to take me to Las Vegas every weekend.  She told me I’d have lots of friends, lots of boyfriends. I told her that I don’t need a boyfriend or a husband.  I’m here to work with children.”

The Peruvian nanny recently asked Castillo at the Women’s Building to make a flyer that advertises her services.  “She didn’t want me to put her university education on the flyer,” said Melissa Castillo, referring to the woman’s obstetrics training, “because she was afraid people would think she’s too expensive, and that it would turn them away.”

Castillo said it was a common problem and sees immigrant lawyers and psychologists, ready to work as domestic workers, line cooks, truckers, and nannies because their degrees mean little here.

“Last week, I applied to various families,” the Peruvian woman said.  “But I don’t know if anyone has responded.  I’m going into the resource room to check my email.  Often, I wait many days and no one responds – not even to say ‘thank you.’”

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Walking in the streets of the Mission takes Lauren back to the streets of South America. Up until now, she’s known the Mission through its bars and restaurants; now it’s the buzz on Mission Street that attracts her. She loves listening to the Spanish in the streets.

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  1. Typical America: pay your entertainers and sports stars astronomical amounts of money, and pay your teachers and child care specialists crap. Then turn on the TV and let everyone watch. Is it a wonder America is going downhill?

  2. Well Bob, I don’t know where you are from, but around my area (Chicago)teachers make pretty good money. And, heck, $20 per hour for a nanny (the going rate before the recession)? That’s pretty good money for a job that requires no education or degree.

  3. I am pleased that our undocumented sisters are helping provide needed childcare at affordable rates. The anonymous Peruvian woman should know better than to refer to workers’ immigration status. I hope that, if she gets a job, she will not share her worldview with impressionable young people.

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