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20 April 2012updated 26 Sep 2015 7:31pm

Marketplace linking carers to families launches in UK

This is the future: markets in everything.

By Alex Hern

Wired offers another example of how the internet is enabling markets in everything. Olivia Solon writes:

Care.com, an online marketplace that connects families with carers, has launched in the UK after six years of operating in the US.

The Boston-headquartered online service charges families a subscription fee to view the selection of carers which range from dog sitters and nannies through to special needs carers for those with severe disabilities. . .

The profiles of all of the carers on the site are reviewed by a team to make sure they are authentic and don’t contain suspicious content.

It looks like the company goes beyond potential competitors like Gumtree and Craigslist by offering the vetting service, but it also takes a bigger cut of the transactions; the US site charges families $35 (£22) per month and carers $15 (£9) per month, although it offers a basic membership for free. It seems likely that potential users will view the fee as worthwhile, however. The risks inherent in buying a second-hand carpet from a complete stranger on the internet are somewhat less than the risks in leaving your children alone with them for a day. And, of course, if you find a carer you like, there is nothing stopping you from cancelling your membership; unlike a traditional agency, the carer works directly for you.

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Cutting out the middleman (or, more accurately, replacing it with a cheaper, more efficient middleman) promises to improve lives for both sides of the equation. Not only does it save money, but it also allows for much more nuanced competition. Careseekers can offer a higher or lower salary depending on the level of experience they desire and the difficulty of the job, while caregivers are not required to stick to standard rates, and can cut their salary to make themselves more employable, or charge more if they feel they are worth it.

Efficient markets require perfect information, of course. While the vetting of carers helps that end, the incentives for parents to play down the misbehaviour of their children are strong. Perhaps a child equivalent of estate agent euphamisms will develop. If so, carers are advised to keep an eye out for children described as “boisterous”, “energetic” or “free-spirited” – or at least increase their fee.