China's delivery industry slammed for poor pay and conditions
Staff members at an express delivery company in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong province, are busy arranging the packages, November 11, 2013. [Photo: Xinhua/Liang Xu]
A huge backlog of undelivered parcels during the past week has prompted intense criticism of the logistics industry in China, especially the tough conditions for couriers working for independent contractors.
On Thursday, Liu Qiangdong, the CEO of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com, posted on the Chinese social media platform Weibo that, "people only notice the so–called employment data in the e-commerce industry, but don't notice that over 90 percent of them have no or very limited social welfare benefits."
Liu said the situation was caused by what he called a "hidden malignant tumour" that had resulted from the extremely rapid growth of e-commerce over the last decade.
His post has hit a chord among netizens and prompted thousands of comments and likes, and has been widely reported in the media generally.
Many accused e-commerce companies of giving low payments to logistic companies, which ultimately leads to the stagnation on couriers' income and benefits.
Zhang, 26, has worked as a courier for an YTO contractor in Beijing for seven months and says he was "not satisfied", and that the work was "fatiguing".
He said he normally worked over 12 hours per day, seven days a week, and earned a monthly income of about 4,000 yuan (about 583 USD).
Apart from two basic accident insurances bought by his boss, as a contractor of YTO Express, Zhang receives no employer contributions to his government health care and pension benefits.
Zhang said he had heard people saying that 97 percent of male couriers would eventually break up with their girlfriends, because they are too busy.
"I sometimes make about 3,000 phone calls a month, and my girlfriend asks me 'why you don't ring me while you are calling so many people'?" Zhang said.
He added that he had no idea what he would do next, but would not stay in the logistics industry in the long term.
Zhang's boss, an YTO Express contractor who refused to give his name, said "no ambitious person would work in the industry all their life."
As one of the largest private Chinese express delivery enterprises, YTO Express has attracted a lot of media coverage recently in relation to the large number of undelivered parcels and branch closures due to alleged mass resignation of couriers.
Yang Daqing, a researcher at the China Society of Logistics, said while the courier contracting system could create businesses for courier companies, it cannot improve a couriers' income and prevent them from resigning.
The Chinese e-commerce industry has 1.2 million couriers in China, nearly one-quarter of them work more than 12 hours a day, seven days a week, according to a survey, the New York Times reported.
Over 30 billion parcels were delivered in China in 2016, according to edu.china.com. And according to State Post Bureau data, more than 8 billion deliveries are expected to be made in the first quarter of 2017, the Xinhua news agency says.
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