September 22, 2008 / 3:37 PM / 9 years ago

Credit crunch sends shivers across UK nanny market

<p>Children play in the sea in warm Easter weather on Brighton beach in southern England April 7, 2007.Luke MacGregor</p>

LONDON (Reuters) - Watch out Mary Poppins, the hurricane howling through the world's financial markets is starting to be felt in the rarefied world of the British nanny.

As bankers and money dealers fall like flies to a credit crunch that has seen three major U.S. investment banks disappear in a puff of smoke, so the nannies they have employed on salaries of up to 40,000 pounds ($73,000) have suddenly become expensive luxuries.

"The problems are just starting. In the last week or two I have started getting calls from nannies saying one or both of their employers have lost their jobs and so they have too," said Kate Baker of Abbeville Nannies in south London.

"The past 12 to 18 months have been a golden era for nannies in London but we have noticed that in recent months pay rates have started to come down a bit, and now the jobs are going too," she added.

Thousands in the London financial district known as the City are either already out of a job or expected to be unemployed in the near future amid predictions that the global economic woes which began last year with the sub-prime shakeout will continue for many more months.

London, with its world financial hub, is the centre of the nanny trade in Britain, employing thousands of the surrogate mothers to care for their infants while they earn megabucks in the City.

The British nanny, epitomized by the fictional but magisterial Mary Poppins, has always been in demand around the world, and that is unlikely to change despite stiff competition from Eastern Europe.

"The market changed three or four years ago. The newly rich with eye-watering mortgages didn't come shopping for nannies in this country, they went to Eastern Europe," said Julie Bremner, owner of Knightsbridge Nannies.

"The nannies from there are cheaper but not nearly as good as ours. It is those people who will suffer first," she added. "The whole world still comes to Britain shopping for the Great British Nanny."

But while she said she had not yet seen a flood of nannies looking for work, she too expected it come in the near future.

"It will happen, but not yet. I expect a rush of nannies coming onto my books -- which is great for my clients because we have always had a supply problem," she added.

But for Stacey Copeland, an administrator at Eden Nannies, the first whisperings of the gathering storm in the nanny state were already being felt.

"Normally at this time of the year we get a rush of people looking for nannies. But it hasn't happened yet," she said. "Pay rates have also started to come down in recent months."

"Nannies are among the first to be hit when times start to get tough. It has been a boom time for nannies in recent years, but that looks to be ending. Many of the people who employ nannies are bankers and they are suffering now," she added.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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