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During the pandemic, food delivery solved unemployment issue, or at least part of it

Alibaba’s food delivery service platform ele.me released a report on food couriers on June 9, 2020.

According to the report, the company provided 1.2 million part-time food courier positions during the pandemic of COVID-19. The average age of these new couriers during the outbreak was 38, compared with the previous average age of 31 for the company’s couriers.

Although specific figures were not given, it was estimated that 20-30% of people became food couriers because they were out of work. This proportion increased with age. Among the youngest 18-to 23-year-olds, a larger proportion of the reasons for becoming couriers were “earning pocket money,” “saving for self-realization,” and “doing nothing.”

31% of part-time couriers came from the service industry, which was understandable. Many shopping malls, restaurants, and entertainment venues were closed because of strict quarantine policies, as a result, people who worked in these facilities needed new jobs.

The second source of incremental couriers was factory workers, accounting for 22% of the total. Another 16% of the increase came from individual entrepreneurs.

Proportion of income from part-time couriers to total household income

Part-time food couriers earned an average of 2900 yuan ($410) a month. 16% of them could earn 4,000-6000 yuan, while 8% could earn more than 6000 yuan. Since this was not a full-time job, 50% of people actually earned less than 30% of their total household income. But there were also 18% of people who earn all their income from this job.

The report also listed some people who joined the group of food couriers purely for fun, such as a designer in Hangzhou, a programmer in Anhui, and an English teacher in Shanghai. Because to some extent, being a food courier was the only way for you to walk freely on the street during that time, and it was an option for those who really didn’t want to stay at home.

As people stopped eating out during the outbreak, despite the total number of food couriers increased a lot than before, it did not affect the overall income situation.

In China,most food couriers are part-time jobs. They usually do not need to sign complex fixed-term labor contracts, but only need to register a account online. Food delivery companies will pay them according to the number of orders completed by couriers and users` evaluations.

This makes the job a quick way to make money that does not require an interview and can be done by everyone. In addition, due to its working hours are concentrated at lunch and dinner, it is a more flexible way of working. Part-time couriers can study in their spare time or prepare for interviews for other jobs, and once they get another full-time job, they can immediately withdraw from jobs without any red tape.

Ele.me pointed out that this kind of gig economy provided individuals with a backstop during a brief economic shutdown, significantly enhancing social stability.

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