Experts warn of perils of outsourcing your life

Article by Catherine Lambert /
Sunday Herald Sun /
March 11, 2012 /
Click here to view original /

PAYING people to perform basic household duties is threatening family unity, experts warn.

The increasingly popular trend to outsource tasks that used to be carried out within the family could alienate people from each other and from their homes.

Monash University senior lecturer Dr Craig Hassed said the growing phenomenon made people less engaged with their lives.

“We don’t get out in our own gardens or clean our own houses and there are more and more labour-saving devices that make us more sedentary, not necessarily more satisfied,” Dr Hassed said.

“There is a lot more satisfaction when you feel like you have been involved and have an investment in where you live. When it comes to paying someone to buy your gifts, all of a sudden there is no personal investment to put in it and a real thoughtlessness to buying a gift.”

IBIS World senior business analyst Naren Sivasailam said research estimated last year the average household spent $500 a week on total outsourcing, which included entertainment and dining out.

Though 35 per cent of that figure accounts for entertainment – casinos, gambling, hotels, clubs and tourism – Mr Sivasailam said there was still a marked increase in using services previously regarded as luxuries.

“One of the important trends is that outsourcing is moving away from traditional cleaning and gardening to more specialist activities,” Mr Sivasailam said.

“As more females enter the workforce, people are more time-poor and try to maximise the time they have free. This ranges from child-minding to pet-feeding and walking, personal trainers, home masseurs or anything that was once considered a bastion of the very rich.”

He said 16.3 per cent of the outsourcing budget went on health services such as exercise, 1.3 per cent on home maintenance such as cleaning, 1.8 per cent on hair and beauty and 1.1 per cent on tasks such as gardening and pet care.

Melbourne University social scientist Dr Lauren Rosewarne said outsourcing had become a status symbol as people convince themselves they are busier than they really are.

“Very few people are so busy they need to outsource shopping and gift-buying,” Dr Rosewarne said.

“Paying for it sets them up as the kind of person who doesn’t have to do these menial activities. For high-income earners there is some sense that if they earn $100 an hour at work why would they pick up their own laundry? They convince themselves they are busy and can get stuff done for them.”

Dr Hassed said time may be spent working to pay for labour-saving devices, which can inhibit physical activity.

“There is a type of burden of income and people can be lulled into a situation of being less physically active and sedentary at home and at work, which has an effect on our mood,” Dr Hassed said.

“So while outsourcing may help provide the work-life balance it can also mean people are not doing anything positive for their physical and mental health.”