CHINA Podcast: Story in the Story (5/6/2020 Wed.)

CHINA

Podcast: Story in the Story (5/6/2020 Wed.)

People's Daily app

02:02, May 06, 2020

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From the People's Daily App.

This is Story in the Story.

"Sharing employees" is a form of flexible hiring as part of the sharing economy. Thanks to the giant strides China has taken in the field of high-tech, including information technology and big data, the sharing economy has developed rapidly in the country.

According to State Information Center data, the trade volume of the sharing economy in China in 2018 was about $418.22 billion, up 41.6 percent year-on-year, with the number of service providers being about 75 million, an increase of 7.1 percent year-on-year.

The outbreak has boosted other forms of businesses including supermarkets, which have faced temporary employee shortages.  For example, fresh delivery service platform Freshhema "borrowed" more than 1,000 employees from Xibei. 

And many online retail platforms such as JD.com and Alibaba have begun to invite other enterprises' workers who are temporarily out of work to make up for the shortage of delivery staff.

Today’s Story in the Story looks at how China’s service industry sectors are meeting consumer demand by implementing a new and innovative concept known as “employee sharing.”  

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Wang Danqing, a temporary worker, works at a Hema grocery store unit in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. (Photo: chinadaily.com.cn)

Most restaurants in China have been forced to shut following the outbreak of COVID-19, and a cash flow crunch has led many to seek bailouts to survive.

"I am even willing to sell assets like real estate and cars. I'll try my best to maintain the jobs of my 16,328 employees," said Shu Congxuan, founder and chairman of Chinese fast food chain Home Original Chicken.  

Shu estimates his company has had losses of at least $71 million as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic so far, with about half of its 800 chain stores temporarily closed. 

"For those in operation, the daily income is about one-fourth of what it was previously, as there are far fewer customers and raw ingredients for cooking can't be delivered on time as some roads are on lockdown," he said.

Home Original Chicken's struggle reflects the dire strait of tens of thousands of restaurants in China. The Beijing Municipal Market Supervision Bureau said that only 11,500 restaurants in Beijing are now operational, accounting for 13 percent of the capital's total.

Wang Danqing, a waiter in a restaurant, has benefited from the shared-employment proposals. "I've worked in Hema since February 10. My job is to sort out proper goods for online orders," he said.

In February, workers from more than 40 companies were temporarily employed at Hema. While another 3,000 people found part-time jobs at Walmart's more than 400 supermarkets in the city.

The epidemic has forced many companies to suspend operations. As a provider of essentials, Walmart has stayed in operation during this special period throughout China, even in Wuhan, to supply daily necessities, said Fang Xiaofeng, senior vice president of human resources of Walmart China.

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A Walmart outlet in Dongda road, Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province. (Photo: Chinadaily.com.cn)

At the same time, Walmart is facing a huge manpower gap. Thus, they welcome companies to collaborate with them and contribute to society, Fang said.

Before temporary workers start their new jobs, they have to get physical examinations and training and sign job contracts. To ensure their safety, employers provide them with protective equipment including masks, goggles and disinfectant.

The industry requires high liquidity as payrolls, rents and purchase fees are generally fixed costs. Continuing to pay employees while there being no business weighs heavily on restaurants.

Domestic restaurants have stepped up their takeaway business or started to sell vegetables, semi-prepared and fully prepared products to residents in communities near its outlets.

However, "takeaway business alone can't support our development," said Xibei, adding government support, including tax and fee cuts and subsidies would be more helpful.

At the beginning of February, more than 30 banks had reached out to Xibei offering financial support. The Shanghai Pudong Development Bank transferred a loan to Xibei, though the company has not disclosed the figure.

Shu said some banks have also contacted him to offer his company credit, and the first loan is expected to be transferred this week.

Experts believe flexible employment will be a major change in the supply of human resources in China in the future. If institutional barriers can be solved by the development of the digital economy, rapid and accurate matching between supply and demand sides of human resources can be achieved, allowing labor to flow more effectively.

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe and Da Hang. Text from China Daily and Global Times.)


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