FAST & FURIOUS
Stress levels are high and competition is fierce between rival couriers in food delivery business
percent earn up to 6,000 yuan, and a tiny minority make upward of 8,000 yuan.
Fengniao offers its employees insurance, deducting the cost from their wages at 2 yuan per delivery day. The couriers generally leave their children to be raised and educated in their home provinces.
“It’s a job you can do without a lot of skills,” says a rider surnamed Lin, who is in his 30s. “Of all these kinds of jobs, your only other option is to
( ) ” — referring to low-skilled manual labor, factory work or service jobs. “When you
you may work more than 8 hours a day and you have to take orders from someone. When you deliver food, you get to be on the move, and work when you take an order; you earn more if you take more, less if you take less.”
Still, Lin plans to change jobs. “The company is not doing well this year,” he says. “I think it’s time for me to move to a different field. ... They don’t cover food or lodging, so after you pay your rent and feed yourself, there’s not much left.”
Last year, not for the first time, both Ele.me and Meituan were criticized by the China Central Television for allowing unlicensed restaurants to use their platform to sell meals, prompting an investigation by food inspectors in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, followed by an apology from Ele.me.
Both Lin the driver and Liu the analyst believe there are labor troubles brewing, as a sector swells by promotions and marketing adjustments are made.
“It’s a demand created by subsidies,” says Liu. “But since the end of last year, the market is contracting; it’s stabilizing itself, so now there’s internal competition for orders.”
Driver Lin has seen it firsthand: “Last year, everybody was switching over to food delivery from other jobs. Our company was doing very well, giving all these discounts,” he says, taking a break outside.
“Take a look at the streets there — everyone’s a food delivery guy. It’s gotten to the point now there are more deliverymen than orders being placed.”
If what they say is true, mergers, refinancing and takeovers are likely to occur, along with possible layoffs. Yet the industry is sure to continue its expansion. But many of these employees, constantly striving to improve their speed, may well be left behind.
Most couriers that deliver food in China’s big cities are young men. They can earn as much as 6,000 yuan per month.