Chinese government seeks to better protect gig workers

A recent analysis by AliResearch, a think tank of Alibaba Group, shows that gig workers in China will number as much as 400 million by 2036.


Delivery men for food delivery platforms Meituan and are seen in Beijing. [Photo/VCG]

July 13, 2022

BEIJING – Guideline targets disabled, seniors in finding on-demand employment

As China’s gig economy continues to grow, the central government is seeking better regulations to serve the rights of workers, foster new skills and startups and ensure healthy and balanced development in the job market.

Gig workers, often referred to as independent contractors or temporary workers, are those such as delivery drivers and sales hosts on online platforms who often enter into contracts with on-demand companies to provide services to their clients.

A recent analysis by AliResearch, a think tank of Alibaba Group, shows that gig workers in China will number as much as 400 million by 2036.

Five central departments including the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Finance released the guideline on Thursday to tackle practical problems that are being faced today and are on the horizon among employees and employers in the gig economy.

According to the guideline, the central government will establish a mechanism to collect and publish reliable job information for people seeking gig work. Recruitment procedures will be streamlined to help job seekers match with suitable vacancies as quickly as possible.

Training courses will be rolled out to improve related and required skills and foster entrepreneurship. Startups will also be encouraged, according to the guideline.

For job seekers with disabilities or who have financial difficulties, targeted assistance and training will be provided by the government so that they can attain suitable employment.

The guideline also said the government will bolster market supervision and crack down on deceptive practices and illegal behavior such as the publishing of inaccurate or unreliable job information.

With the rise of technology and the impact of the pandemic, the gig economy has provided viable opportunities to many people across a number of sectors, according to Pang Shi, director of the department of employment and entrepreneurship at the Chinese Academy of Personnel Science.

She said that the gig economy provides an important way for people to improve their incomes, and that for seniors, the disabled or those with other difficulties, gig work provides less pressure than full-time employment.

“The guideline supports the development of flexible employment, which can help people find reliable gig work and employers find good workers,” she said.

“The guideline also stipulates better protections for workers and greater supervision over employers to provide a safer and fairer working environment.”

Many gig workers are already employed full time and use side jobs to supplement their incomes.

Han Lulu, 26, said that she and two friends often do temporary work shooting short videos for agencies on the weekend.

“We’ve taken these part-time jobs for over two years. It’s on the weekend, so there is no conflict with our own jobs. It’s a good way to earn money and follow my own interests and abilities, so why not?” she said.

In May, Wei Xiang, a professor from the University of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, wrote an article in Chinese news portal Jiemian describing the potential of gigs as supplements to full-time work, and dismissing the bias of them being a “lower end” of employment.

He said in the article that gig workers such as ride-hailing drivers, online writers and livestream hosts have emerged thanks to China’s strong digital economy and new employment needs generated by technology.

Gig workers often have higher work efficiency because of new technology, breaking the previous working limits of time and space. He added that the gig economy is a market-oriented adjustment for labor resources that has stimulated new needs and offers workers new job opportunities.

“It’s an effective supplement to the regular job market. The gig economy is showing growing importance to the stability of the job market, especially facing current economic downturns,” he said in the article.

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