About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy Terms of Use DMCA Opt-out of personalized ads
© Copyright 2023 Market Realist. Market Realist is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.

The Rise of Friends-For-Hire Businesses in China: Young Individuals Redefining Social Interactions

The friends-for-hire industry in China caters to a diverse clientele.
UPDATED FEB 26, 2024
Cover Image Source: A Chinese tourist is seen posing outside a temple | Pexels | Photo by Sabel Blanco
Cover Image Source: A Chinese tourist is seen posing outside a temple | Pexels | Photo by Sabel Blanco

In China, a unique phenomenon has emerged – friends-for-hire businesses. These innovative enterprises offer a range of services, allowing individuals to rent companionship for various purposes, from social events to personal support. While the concept may seem unconventional to some, these businesses are gaining traction, reflecting shifting attitudes toward social interactions and relationships in contemporary Chinese society.


Yang, a 27-year-old blogger from Beijing, met her client in an IKEA store. He was a young man paying 125 yuan ($17) an hour for her time and company. As they roamed the aisles of the store, he poured out his grievances about his girlfriend, seeking Yang's perspective as a female confidante. "Young people have become lonelier. Some people are very stressed at work, and some experience pressure from their own family," she said, reflecting on her experience. 

The friends-for-hire industry in China caters to a diverse clientele, including young professionals seeking companionship at social gatherings, individuals looking for emotional support during challenging times, and even tourists eager to explore the city with a local guide. The services provided by these businesses range from simple companionship for dinners or events to more specialized offerings such as language exchange partners or travel companions.

Image Source: Photo by Helena Lopes | Pexels
(Representative image) Photo by Helena Lopes | Pexels

For Yang, the opportunity to offer her companionship as a side hustle has proven both lucrative and fulfilling. Despite her primary job as a social media influencer, she has found a steady stream of clients, all seeking support or a temporary companion for various activities. From stressed-out professionals to lonely stay-at-home moms, her clients come from diverse backgrounds, united by a common desire for connection and understanding.

Similarly, Alaia Zhang, a 22-year-old based in Guangzhou, has found solace in providing companionship to those in need. Operating on Xiaohongshu, she offers her services primarily to female clients, emphasizing the importance of emotional support in today's society. In her view, the stigma surrounding mental health and the fear of vulnerability has led many young people to seek paid companionship as a way to cope with their insecurities.

"Young people have a lot of anxiety nowadays, but they either don't want to spill that negativity to their friends and family, or they don't feel like they have trustworthy people to share that with. Everybody is lonely, even I am lonely myself," she said.

People crowd behind a fence as they reach to touch the head of a dragon for good luck as it is carried by members of a dragon dance troupe at a local temple fair for the Chinese Lunar New Year and Spring Festival on February 13, 2024 in Beijing, China. China ushered in the Year of the Dragon and the Lunar New Year and Spring Festival on February 10th.|Getty Images|Photo by Kevin Frayer
People crowd behind a fence as they reach to touch the head of a dragon in Beijing, China | Getty Images | Photo by Kevin Frayer

The rapid pace of urbanization and migration has led to an increasingly transient population, with many individuals relocating to new cities for work or education. As a result, people often find themselves lacking a support network of friends and family in their new environment, creating a demand for temporary companionship.

"Many international students are stressed about school and their careers, they have trouble fitting in, but they might not have access to professional help," said Cindy Lu, 31, a freelance photographer based in Toronto.

The rise of social media and digital technology has further transformed the way people connect and interact, leading to a proliferation of virtual friendships and online communities. Chinese social media apps such as Douyin and Xiaohongshu have become popular platforms for the services.

People look at the new Mate 60 smartphone and other products at a Huawei flagship store after the company unveiled new products on September 25, 2023 in Beijing, China. China's Huawei recently unveiled its new line of smartphones, including the Mate 60, which features a Chinese made chip.|Getty Images|Photo by Kevin Frayer
People in this digital age are engrossed looking at new things and embracing them. | Getty Images | Photo by Kevin Frayer

Cui Pei, a 38-year-old hospital companion based in Xi'an, has witnessed firsthand the growing demand for her services among the elderly and young alike. "We have to be empathetic and learn how to understand the elderly's emotions and to comfort them," she stated.

"This is called the 'silver hair economy.' This industry will become huge because China has such a large population, and it's aging fast," she added.

Residents cross an intersection at a shopping district in Hong Kong, China.
Residents cross an intersection at a shopping district in Hong Kong, China | Photo by Anthony Kwan | Getty Images

Navigating cultural sensitivities and ethical considerations remains a challenge for friend-for-hire businesses. Ensuring that interactions between clients and hired companions are respectful, genuine, and free from exploitation is essential to maintaining the integrity and reputation of the industry.

Moreover, the market shows no signs of slowing down, with increasing interest from individuals looking to enter the profession and meet the growing demand for companionship and support.