Now you can rent a mom to make you chicken soup, or rent a pet for the day – big4all.org year 6 electricity unit

The sharing economy has moved well beyond ride sharing and renting spare rooms. And that makes perfect sense to Parkson Yip Tak-yin, vice-president of strategic business development at US-listed Sharing Economy International, which launched BuddiGo this month.

“As an example, the buddy nearby your location has to go to work in [Hong Kong’s] Central [business district] and you give him HK$20 [US$2.50] to help you deliver something to, or buy something from, Central,” he explains. “The HK$20 can help subsidise his transport cost and save you the trouble of going to Central in person for the errand.”

He believes the public participation rate would be high, especially among retirees. “They have [not much] to do every day and they enjoy the HK$2 discounted travel fare for elderly citizens. They can make frequent trips, run errands for others, and earn money.”

Set up in Hong Kong in 2013, it rents out all sorts of products, from bicycles to popcorn machines, and offers services such as bridal make-up and venue decoration. Among ECrent’s more eccentric offerings are mums-for-hire for those single salary earners who yearn for home-made soup.

Not everyone buys into the concept of sharing, though, especially when it is sentient beings that are being shared. ECrent courted controversy in Hong Kong in 2016 when its pets-for-hire service allowed users to try keeping a pet before deciding whether to buy one. This raised the ire of animal welfare activists, who said such services distort the value of life.

A quick search for pets for hire on Xian Yu, a second-hand goods site launched by Taobao, the online retail platform of e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba yielded a couple of listings of pets available for rent as models. Pictures of furry cats holding lipsticks and bottles of perfumes dot Taobao itself. (Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.)

Beijinger Han Tong recently put up a listing on Xian Yu to rent out her British shorthair and American shorthair cats, and her two poodles, as models. She said renting them out for part-time modelling stints can help cover some of the expenses of keeping them.

While pet rentals may raise eyebrows in the animal welfare community, proponents of the practice argue that the concept is just the same as the long-standing practice of household pets serving as therapy animals in the children’s wards of hospitals and at old people’s homes.

In Japan, “rental family service” is so popular that it has practically become an industry. A recent New Yorker report on the phenomenon featured a widower who rented two women to act as substitutes for his deceased wife and estranged daughter to give him some comfort for a while.

On the listings menu at Family Romance, one of the agencies in Japan that offers “replacement relatives”, slim-looking mothers and wives are available for hire (as overweight women are often considered an embarrassment in Japanese social circles).

In China, single men and women have used online partner rental services in recent years to hire fake spouses in order to stop their parents nagging them about settling down and starting a family. However, Yip says Hong Kong is more conservative than China and not ready to embrace the concept of “hiring” a boyfriend or girlfriend.

He also says that being able to rent a substitute mother or father can help heal the mental scars of those who come from a broken home. “There are unfortunate children who don’t have parents. They never experience the feeling of having a complete family,” he says.