Beijing begins introducing measures to protect gig-economy workers, starting with delivery drivers

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(Image credit: JD.com)

Beijing’s municipal government announced today nine measures to support the development of the delivery industry, including designated courier accommodations, state-owned media Beijing Youth Daily reported today (in Chinese). The set of policies aims to enhance the working conditions for deliverymen, while also encouraging the development of the industry.

Local authorities unveiled the measures to regulate the country’s booming express delivery industry in a government meeting, presided over by Beijing’s deputy mayor Wang Hong. Beijing’s e-commerce industry has grown from an annual turnover of RMB 12 billion (around $1.78 billion) in 2010 to RMB 263 billion (around $39 billion), based on data from the Beijing Municipal Commerce Bureau. It now accounts for 22.4% of total retail sales in the city.

This astounding growth was predicated on a flexible labor market, which left many workers exposed. Delivery drivers—usually men—are generally hired on a temporary basis by logistics and lifestyle companies without legal safeguards. The government has decided to promote employer compliance to protect the low-income workers, in accordance with wider labour regulations.

Firms are urged to outline their obligations to employees in formal contracts, offering on-the-job injury compensation and medical insurance to ensure their rights and benefits. These will also enhance the courier fleet’s job security.

A total of 2,400 dorm rooms will be offered for rent by the government to address the housing shortage for local couriers. The dorms will be treated as part of the public infrastructure, only available for lease and not for sale. The local government also plans to accelerate the construction of more housing.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security censured local companies, including popular ride-hailing firm Didi, for not providing insurance for its drivers, reported Nanfang Metropolis Daily (in Chinese). It added legislative amendments will be introduced “in due course so as to provide legal protection to the ‘new economy’ workers.”

Chinese online retail, along with logistics and food delivery, has become a key industry in China. Statistics from the State Post Bureau show that over 50 billion goods were delivered over the past year, a 26.6% year-on-year increase. China counts more than 70 million gig-economy workers, including express couriers, according to central government figures.