Politics

China stands with delivery riders: 17-point plan aims to boost Communist Party outreach


In its drive to strengthen overall control of Chinese society, the party has in recent years increasingly focused on gig workers, such as hosts on live-streaming and short- video platforms, internet writers, and now delivery crews.

Those working for online delivery platforms are effectively all-weather freelancers not protected by traditional job contracts. They are facing declining pay and longer hours amid a job crisis as the Chinese economy faces challenges from within and without.

Recognising the delivery workers as “a new and important part” of China’s employment landscape, the SAMR pledged to double down on party-building work among them, so as to “enhance their sense of fulfilment, happiness and security”.

“[We must] carry out ideological and political work in-depth and in detail, combine solving ideological problems with solving practical problems, and guide the online delivery workers ‘to be grateful for the party’s care, listen to the party’s command, and follow the party’s lead’,” the first item on its memo released on Tuesday said, referencing a slogan that frequently appears in President Xi Jinping’s speeches.

First used by Xi in a February 2021 speech to celebrate the success of China’s poverty alleviation campaign, the slogan has since been often included in official statements from party and state agencies.

Party workers among the online delivery workers with a strong sense of responsibility would be hired as “part-time social supervisors”, the SAMR memo said.

They could help with grass-roots governance by taking photographs and making snap reports for the authorities as they go about their jobs, the SAMR said, though it did not specify how many such supervisors would be recruited in coming years.

These new social supervisors would keep an eye on “safety issues and hidden dangers” around them, like food and drugs quality problems, and report them in a timely manner. This will ensure “they can contribute to maintaining the bottom line of security”, the guidelines said.

Under the supervision of the local party organisation department and the newly formed social work department, the authorities should start to identify party members among the delivery crew to set up mobile party cells and branches “according to the circumstances”.

Beijing set up a Social Work Department reporting to its core policymaking Central Committee in March last year, in a move aimed at tightening control over non-public sectors and grass-roots organs.

The department also oversees government-led industrial federations and the governance of both urban and rural grass-roots communities. Beijing has ordered regional governments to set up similar bodies to make sure the party has a firm grasp on the situation on the ground.

The SAMR said these party branches and their members would become important channels to collect feedback on the difficulties faced by the delivery crews and protect their legitimate rights. They would also help to build a network of rest stations, canteens and convenience stores serving the crews and negotiate better access for delivery services to make their jobs easier.

Trade frictions with the West and uneven post-Covid domestic growth have made it difficult for China to create enough jobs, especially for young people just joining the workforce.

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The reasons behind China’s high youth unemployment rate

The reasons behind China’s high youth unemployment rate

In March, the adjusted unemployment rate for the 16 to 24 age group remained at a high 15.3 per cent, while that for the recently introduced 25 to 29 age bracket edged up to 7.2 per cent.

More workers have no choice but to get into the gig economy, despite the market being increasingly saturated and offering poor labour protection.

The SAMR put the number of delivery crew members serving China’s gig economy at about 12 million.

A survey last year by the official All-China Federation of Trade Unions said 84 million Chinese were “workers under new type of employment”, employed mainly as couriers, truck drivers, drivers for ride-hailing platforms and food delivery workers.

Some official estimates say at least 200 million people are employed by China’s internet platform companies, including both full-time staff and gig workers.



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