School closures due to the spread of COVID-19 are pushing Japan's overburdened working parents to resort to services they have traditionally hesitated to use — housekeeping and babysitting.

Surveys have shown that most know about the services, but many are reluctant to try them. Some feel uncomfortable allowing strangers into their homes, while others do not see the point of paying professionals to do chores they can do themselves.

But a tipping point came last month when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe requested that all elementary, junior high and high schools shut down temporarily, starting March 2, to contain the spread of infection. Companies spotted an opportunity to persuade parents to make the leap, and began offering free services and discounts.