In China, single people are often subjected to tough lectures from relatives keen on reinforcing the importance of marriage and securing the family blood line.
Some singles resort to hiring fake girlfriends to appease their parents. But an explosion in smartphone use in recent years means one can now pay for such a date through a handful of mobile apps, with just a few clicks.
“Over 1,000 users on our platform have signed up as dates for hire for the New Year break,” Cao Tiantian, founder of date-for-hire app Hire Me Plz. Subscribers to the app pay from as little as 1 yuan ($0.15) to 1,999 yuan an hour for a dinner date, a chat, a game of mah-jong or even a foot massage.
Prices surge around the time of Lunar New Year, with thousands of attractive twenty-somethings like Luoluo commanding fees of 3,000 yuan to 10,000 yuan a day.
Apart from Hire Me Plz, there are five major date-hiring apps in China, which make their money by taking a cut from hires, and also from subscription fees.
Since its launch in 2015, Hire Me Plz has garnered a user base of 700,000 and 1.7 million followers on Tencent’s (0700.HK) WeChat, China’s biggest mobile social media network.
However, prostitution is illegal in China.
Hire Me Plz’s Cao said the initial aim of her app was to help overcome the problem of loneliness experienced by young people leaving home to work alone in big cities.