Buy with 1-Click: Independent Contractors in China’s Last-Mile Delivery

Jenny Chan The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

1 June 2021 webinar 

China’s e-commerce boom is fueled not only by Alibaba, JD, and Amazon but also by 4 million parcel express delivery workers. To make their deliveries in the shortest possible time, rather than navigating online, they devise their own routes and build social relations to facilitate successful deliveries. They also often cover the cost for the self-service lockers that are required for reliable deliveries and draw upon their family members to help with delivery and pickups. While these strategies may enhance delivery workers’ market competitiveness, it also generates massive profits for the parcel express industry. Human workers, rather than delivery robots, are still the major source of the flexible workforce. This talk sheds light on informal contract work among a male rural migrant workforce, and analyzes the technology involved in highly labor-intensive delivery services in which workers are subject to management both by their supervisors and their customers.

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