Where some see loneliness and elder abandonment, others see an opportunity.
Entrepreneurial Taobao vendors are now offering a service that will send a stranger to visit your parents in your place for a few hours, which may fulfill the requirements of the government’s new initiative the “Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly”. The law, which came into effect on July 1, obliges China’s sons and daughters to visit their parents but does not specify what number of visits would ensure a healthy parent-child relationship under the law.
Shanghai Daily reports that “The service targets people who are too busy or have a bad relationship with their parents.” A Taobao vendor described “We offer services such as chatting, celebrating birthdays and even performances,” and that they have “a professional team but you have to tell us topics they like to start a good chat.”
The amount one must pay for this façade of familial love and companionship is surprisingly affordable, with most offers being much cheaper than a cross country train ticket. One vendor charges 100 yuan per hour while other sources report an even cheaper rate at “Ten minutes for 8 yuan, one hour for 20 yuan.” The rates differ by region, the service is currently only available in Beijing, Hangzhou, Shenzhen and three other cities.
Director of of the Kunming Academy of Social Sciences Long Donglin argues in Yunnan Daily that “Paying for surrogate visits is a natural development, this only reflects the fact that there is a demand.”
Enforcement of the new law may only increase demand for filial Taobao surrogates. A couple in Jiangsu was found neglectful and ordered to pay the husband’s mother compensation as well as make an obligation to visit her at least once every two months.
While other strange Taobao services have been taken off the site, and there’s no word whether hiring a surrogate will qualify as an actual visit yet, business appears to be booming.
[Image credit: James Griffiths, Photo: @marcboon]