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Business

Japan care providers turn brokers for babysitters, home aides

Online matchmaking a win-win for customers and caregivers seeking flexbility

TOKYO -- Some of Japan's leading providers of child and nursing care are also acting as online intermediaries matching people looking for 

help with caregivers seeking employment.

These matchmaking portals broaden the scope of business for the companies by harnessing a pool of workers who want flexible hours, while giving customers a more convenient way to find affordable care.

Poppins, a leading provider of child care, recently acquired Smart Sitter from Internet media company Gree. Smart Sitter offers a program where parents looking for babysitters can connect with licensed day-care workers and preschool teachers.

Poppins provides its own nannies, but Smart Sitter gives the company the opportunity to expand beyond its affluent clientele and present a less-expensive alternative for people needing only limited hours of babysitting.

The sitters hired through Smart Sitter charge hourly fees starting at 1,500 yen ($13), which is below going market rates. Poppins employs certified day-care workers, so the trick is finding available ones who are not working at preschools. Smart Sitter taps into this pool of workers by offering them the promise of flexible hours. Poppins aims to multiply Smart Sitter's annual sales from the current 100 million yen or so to 1 billion yen by 2020.

Elderly care is another area where leading providers are expanding into the role of online intermediary.

Group home operator Medical Care Service will begin matching seniors with caregivers in March. Operated by an affiliate, this online tool will give seniors a way to search for help themselves based on services rendered and hourly rates.

The kinds of assistance offered via this site will not be covered by Japan's public nursing-care insurance, so the fees of around 2,000 yen an hour may seem expensive. But MCS says that in addition to the traditional roles of helping with tasks like feeding and personal hygiene, these caregivers will assist in other ways, like preparing meals for the whole family. With this customized approach, MCS aims to grow a business with annual revenue of 1 billion yen within five years.

(Nikkei)

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