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Feb 3, 2017

COURIERS' HARD WORK * China - University survey: Cause, low-paying and difficulties

* Beijing - For Couriers, China’s e-commerce boom can be a tough road

  (Video from News Live 7/24 - Jan 31, 2017: Ling Lianjun is a critical cog in the world’s largest market for package delivery. China’s e-commerce industry has boomed on the backs of hundreds of thousands of couriers. Follow Mr. Ling on his busy Beijing route) 

 --- Zhang Heng it's one of the legions of package couriers in Beijing who help power China’s online shopping boom. He spoke as he blitzed through a surgical wing, medical storeroom and patient ward delivering parcels small and large, soft and square, to doctors and nurses in an effort to ensure the right person gets the right package... The Chinese e-commerce industry has been built on the backs of couriers — called kuaidi, or express delivery, in China — like Mr. Zhang. They number 1.2 million, by one survey, and online retailers like Alibaba use them to zip packages to customers by scooter or three-wheeled electric cart. Across China, the world’s largest market for package delivery, a courier shouting “kuaidi!” through a door or a phone signals your package has arrived... But for the couriers — who are largely unskilled workers from China’s interior — the work can be low-paying and difficult. It is coming under scrutiny from labor activists and legal experts who say many couriers face punishing hours and harsh working conditions... Nearly one-quarter of them work more than 12 hours a day, seven days a week, according to the survey, which covered 40,000 couriers and was conducted by Beijing Jiaotong University and Alibaba’s research and logistics arms. A majority work more than eight hours a day each day of the week...

(Photo Credit Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times: Couriers by a pile of packages they will deliver in the afternoon. Drivers say they can make 150 deliveries on a weekday)

 ... Labor standards in the industry vary widely, but many couriers work under arrangements that might, for example, provide no overtime pay or no employer contributions to their government health care and pension benefits. Just as in the United States, where Uber drivers and many others work as contractors, those arrangements raise questions about what defines work and employment... Meanwhile, tough conditions have led to unrest among couriers, said Keegan Elmer, a researcher for China Labor Bulletin, a workers’ rights group based in Hong Kong. His group has seen disputes in a number of Chinese cities, he said, along with a rise in strikes as economic growth slows... In December, a weeklong strike brought deliveries by one package company partly owned by Alibaba, YTO Express, to a halt in Baoji, a city in Shaanxi Province... A spokeswoman for YTO Express said the strike was caused by a franchisee who did not promptly calculate fees or properly communicate with couriers... 
Beijing, China - THE DAILY 360 By SARAH LI, RYAN MCMORROW, VEDA SHASTRI and SAMANTHA QUICK - JAN. 31, 2017

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