China’s newly revised elder-care law has come as good news for a handful of entrepreneurs who specialize in outsourcing those now-mandated visits to grandma and grandpa.
The new law, which requires adults to offer their parents mental and financial support, has spurred at least 17 online vendors on Taobao, the eBay-like site owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., to offer services such as running errands and standing in line for the elderly in Beijing, Shanghai, Hunan, and Zhejiang.
“We offer services such as chatting, celebrating birthdays and even performances,“ one online storekeeper told the state-run Shanghai Daily, saying services were selling for 100 yuan (about $16) an hour, plus extras and transportation.
Because nothing raises the spirits of the elderly like a stranger hired by their child to talk to keep them company.
Last week, just hours after the elderly care law was implemented, the first related case came to trial as a couple in Jiangsu province were ordered to visit the wife’s 77-year-old mother at least once every other month and during at least two public holidays annually.
The law comes at a time when government estimates show the population of senior citizens in China growing by 3% every year.
Elderly care has been a hot topic in China, where the one-child policy has left fewer children to care for their aging parents. Urbanization has left an increasing number of rural Chinese elderly desperate for care.
“I think the government is going to use the threat and fear of prosecution to force Chinese citizens to provide more care for the elderly,“ says Dean Polizzotto, a Chinese law expert at the University of Hong Kong.
According to a government white paper on care for the elderly, citizens above the age of 18 are obliged to support their parents. The new law, Mr. Polizzotto says, seems like “an attempt to address the needs of an insufficient public welfare and pension system, which has been developed over the last decade.“
A joint study by Chinese international academics found elderly Chinese are disproportionately poor and depressed, with roughly 42.4 million living on less than 3,200 yuan ($520) a year.
香港大学(University of Hong Kong)中国法律专家波利佐托(Dean Polizzotto)说，他认为政府将利用起诉威胁和担心来迫使中国人向老年人提供更多的照料。