The logical consequence of a new Chinese law stipulating that children must visit their parents every so often, which went into effect on July 1, should have been predictable: a market for busy people to hire others to visit their parents for them.
Online shops selling parental visiting services quickly popped up on Taobao, China’s popular e-commerce site, similar to Ebay, offering visits in Beijing, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and three other cities, says the South China Morning Post.
Merely a week after the mandatory parental visit law went into effect, entrepreneurs began selling parental calls by the minute, hour or day, plus travel expenses.
“We offer services such as chatting, celebrating birthdays and even performances,” a Taobao storekeeper told Shanghai Daily.
His service charges 100 yuan ($16.30) per hour, excluding transportation and extra payments for activities or gifts, in Zhejiang Province, but his sales record, displayed on Taobao, showed few sales so far.
A Jiangxi service offers a full two days of company for 3,000 yuan ($489.09), says the South China Morning Post, while a quick chat in Shaanxi will cost only 8 yuan ($1.30) for 10 minutes or 20 yuan ($3.26) per hour.
A Shanghai lawyer compared the services to the specialty dating services which provide an ersatz boyfriend or girlfriend to take home to satisfy nagging parents, impatient for an offspring to marry, said the Shanghai Daily.
Others are not so generous in their appraisal of the new service. “Hiring someone else to visit your parents or other elderly family member is so artificial,” said Zhang Minghao, a 22-year-old Shanghai resident.
While some children may be too busy (or self-involved) to visit their parents, many are forced to live apart from them due to China’s restrictive residency policies, which determine where people can live and enjoy legal benefits.
The Communist Party’s (CCP) decades long one-child policy has aggravated the problem by preventing low income, rural residents from raising the larger families needed to ensure elder care and sufficient income.
As rural workers go off to the cities to work, often thousands of miles from home, elderly parents are left alone with only grandchildren to help them manage.
Experts say that these parents and children may be burdened further economically if the new law does end up enforcing expensive, cross country visits.
Migrant workers are unlikely to find much relief in the entrepreneurial new parental visiting services, however, given that they are targeted toward—and priced for—an affluent, urban, professional market.