Hi. It’s Brady again. Happy hump day.
Last year, all around the world, low-wage and gig workers became “essential” overnight. They were described as “frontline heroes” and a slew of tech companies painted themselves as visionary because their services made it possible for consumers to access necessities (like groceries) and comforts (like professionally prepared meals) without leaving home.
There is some truth to that. Depending on where you are located, it’s possible to work remotely, have everything you need delivered to your doorstep, and never set foot in a crowd for weeks, even months on end.
But all this glory hasn’t translated to better pay or benefits for the men and women who do the grunt work. That may be changing in China, just a little bit.
New regulations say Meituan, Ele.me, and other meal delivery services will have to ensure basic rights for their riders, like remuneration that is in line with local minimum wage limits, a vital benefit that tech companies have managed to brush off until now.
My colleague Jiaxing unpacked more details related to this development. Companies are expected to formulate softer performance evaluation systems, lighter work assignment loads, and looser delivery deadlines.
This is a good thing for the 7 million riders who zip hot meals through frenetic traffic on tight schedules. How did public markets respond? Meituan’s shares tanked in Hong Kong. Make of that what you will. In any case, companies that facilitate deliveries in China are already looking at fully autonomous setups. In the near future, “essential” riders may not be so crucial after all.
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