One thousand people aged 15 or over were questioned about a range of domestic services, from housework and childcare to gardening. Enquiries focused on services which people paid for themselves, excluding any supplied by social services or charities, or paid for as a business expense.
A surprising amount of money changes hands every week in this market. Although the majority of users – 58 per cent – spend less than 5 per week on domestic help, a fifth pay between 5 and 15, eight per cent between 16 and 25, and 13 per cent more than 25 pounds a week. Eight per cent of all users paid 26 to 50, and five per cent more than 50 a week.
Thus at least 250,000 is paid out every week for domestic help – more than 13m annually – and the market seems set to grow. Forty-two per cent of people already paying for domestic help would “get more if I had more money” and a quarter would increase consumption “if it was easier to find”.
As in most discretionary markets, a small core of users contributes a far higher proportion of expenditure. Just over a fifth of adults – three out of ten of all users – paid for two or more types of the services on NOP’s list, but they provided about 60 per cent of all money spent.
The overall market reflects the profile of the population surprisingly closely. There are fewer users among the under-25s, probably because most of this age group are not responsible for running a household.
The oldest age group, the over-65s, have no higher a consumption of services than younger groups – in fact, the highest involvement is among 35to 44-year-olds.
Six out of ten of the most upmarket group – the ABs – pay for some domestic help, but take-up among white-collar and blue-collar consumers is 50 per cent, only seven per cent more than the least prosperous class, the DEs.
But the core market, of people who use at least two types of service, is far more upmarket. Thirty-three per cent of multiple users come from the AB group and 25 per cent from C1 (white-collar) households, although the two groups together make up only 45 per cent of the adult population.
Where people live has a marked effect on their use of domestic help – perhaps reflecting availability as much as inclination. The northern third of the population has the highest share of users – 41 per cent – compared with 31 per cent in the Midlands and 28 per cent in the South.
Where multiple service customers are concerned, the South rises to take up 35 per cent, leaving only a quarter in the Midlands. A fifth of people living in “small country villages” pay for two or more types of domestic help, compared with 17 per cent in both “suburbs” and “small towns” and only 12 per cent living in “the middle of a large town or city”.
Average expenditure is highest in villages and city centres, although as villagers are more likely to be using more than one service, they are also paying lower rates.
Pane and simple
By far the most popular service is window cleaning, used by eight out of ten people who pay for any sort of domestic help. Sixteen per cent of users employ someone to clean inside the house and a similar number pay for help in the garden, or for baby-sitting or child-minding. One in ten uses an ironing service; only five per cent pay for help with pets, or for cooking or catering.
Multiple users make up the vast majority of customers for all other domestic services – and they also make up a key target group for home shopping. Seven per cent “use a telephone or Internet ordering service for groceries”, compared with less than one per cent of the total adult population.
ABs make up at least 30 per cent of users for all services except cooking and the ubiquitous window-cleaning. Where people live, however, also affects the types of services they use. People in the suburbs are the most likely to have a window cleaner, and village-dwellers to have domestic cleaners. Inner-cities residents have a lower rate for almost all services except childcare and help with pets.
Time is precious
Although the clich “cash rich, time poor” is borne out by NOP’s research, it is by no means the only – or even the most powerful – reason for employing help around the house or garden.
Just over half – 53 per cent – of all users agreed that they “didn’t have time to do everything myself”, and for 27 per cent this was a major motivation.
But the figures are almost exactly the same for simple distaste: “I don’t like doing housework”. Only a fifth claimed they needed domestic help for health reasons, although the survey did exclude recipients of government or charitable assistance.
Upmarket (ABC1) customers put more emphasis on time pressure than downmarket users and it is a particularly strong motivation for full-time working women. As usage rises, so does the importance of time; two-thirds of multiple users and three-quarters of Internet shoppers quote lack of time as a reason for employing other people.
Full-time, working women are the most likely group to pay for household help because they “dislike housework”; perhaps they feel more justified than non-workers, as they are making a major – if not the only – contribution to the household income.
As working women are also the most likely to spend more on domestic help if they themselves “had more money”, it seems certain that the market for domestic services will grow in line with the increasing employment – and increased wages – of working women.
– The British spend at least 13m annually on private domestic help
– A sixth of adults use two or more types of services
– Multiple users are six times more likely than average to use Internet or telephone grocery services
Analysis: The Human Factor
Contact: Elaine Hunt
Telephone: 01993 831202
NOP Research Group interviewed a sample of 1000 adult over 15-years-old using its Weekend Telephone Omnibus
Contact: Carol Bernasconi on 020 7890 9565
Services used % of all adults aged 15+ Cleaning inside the house 8 Gardening 8 Baby-sitting or child-minding 8 Cooking or catering 2 Ironing 5 Help with pets or domestic animals 2 None of these 51
<b>Sources used for finding domestic help </b> – % of all users have used think “good” Yellow Pages 30 18 Local free paper/magazine 28 16 Card/leaflet through door 26 13 Local paid-for paper/magazine 18 7 An agency 11 3 The Internet 8 3
Sources used for finding domestic help
<b>Amount spent on Services in a normal week </b> – % of all users Less than 5 58 5-10 15 11-15 5 16-25 8 26-50 8 50+ 5 Mean amount spent – 11
Amount spent on Services in a normal week
<b>Reasons for paying for domestic help </b> % of all users agreeing a lot a little not at all I don’t like doing housework 26 48 46 My health makes it necessary 11 10 79 If I had more money I’d get more help 21 21 58 I’d get more help if it was easier to find 8 15 76
Reasons for paying for domestic help