Commoditisation of care

Posted by Flux on 

6 November 2023

What’s trending?

We are starting to see an increased number of situations where care is being monetised. There’s a demand for services that one previously did oneself – and without a price-tag. One service on offer in the US is  rent-a-mom, where parents hire surrogate mothers for their children who are away at college. For a fee, a college ‘mom’ will make the student’s bed, bring them food and advise them on their course, among other services. In China, youth unemployment is so dire that some adult children are paid large sums of money by their parents for essentially being a kid. The hashtags #FullTimeDaughter and #FullTimeSon have had millions of views each. ‘Children’ get paid for just spending time with their parents, joining them on outings, and doing household chores. A company in the US called Rent-a-Grandma pairs mature women with families looking for elderly caregivers. Thousands of people across the UK have a profile on RentAFriend, a website that, as the name suggests, allows you to hire the services of a ‘friend’ for approximately £30 an hour. Some parents are outsourcing the job of teaching their kids to ride a bike. Pedalheads is a learn-to-ride bike camp known for taking kids from training wheels to two wheels to road riding.

Why is it important?

We live in a culture where busy-ness is revered and celebrated. Putting a price on relationships and care is indicative of people leading busy lives who are willing to pay for the convenience of outsourcing some responsibilities. These conveniences may come at a cost though. Substituting real relationships with artificial, money-based ones could alienate family members from each other and also hinder individuals developing healthy relationships. Family size is shrinking, which means the opportunity to talk to adult siblings or cousins has diminished. There is also research to suggest that friendship circles are becoming smaller. According to the World Economic Forum, people in the US have far fewer close friends than 30 years ago. Similar numbers are mirrored in the UK data, with thinktank Onward reporting that ‘young people appear to be suffering from what can only be described as a collapse in community and epidemic of loneliness’.

What can businesses do about it?

The stigma attached to paying for outside help has dissipated over the years, with the demand for outsourced care services growing. Businesses could identify which relationships or responsibilities employees are struggling with and develop services to satisfy these needs. An on-site creche is one such example. They could develop ways for employees to engage with colleagues over some of the care-based challenges they face. In a large organisation, a digital ‘notice-board’ where employees are able to ask for help from colleagues is a way to do this. Offer flexible work hours, work from home options, or compressed workweeks. This allows employees to better balance their work and family responsibilities. 

By Faeeza Khan

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Image credit: John Moeses Bauan 

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