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JD Logistics to hire 20,000 more delivery and warehouse workers, giving priority to those below poverty line

Unemployment in China rose rapidly in the first two months of 2020 as the country’s economy was squeezed by the impact of the coronavirus lockdown.

JD.ID packages. Photo courtesy of Daily Social.

The logistics unit of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com (NASDAQ: JD) is looking to hire over 20,000 new warehouse and delivery workers to meet surging online demand amid a growing pool of people looking for work after losing jobs during the coronavirus crisis.

The company said it would give priority to applicants who fall under the country’s poverty threshold to help China meet its poverty alleviation goal in 2020, according to JD Logistics statement on Monday.

All positions are full-time and include frontline positions such as delivery drivers and warehouse workers. As well as giving priority to the poor, the company will provide them with the required training, a JD.com spokesman told the Post.

The hiring binge comes after the unemployment rate in China rose rapidly in the first two months of 2020 as the country’s economy was squeezed by the impact of the coronavirus lockdown. Most people were unable to return to work after the Lunar New Year when authorities extended the holiday period to try and curb the spread of the disease but surging demand for more online services is now starting to create new jobs.

During their quarantine at home more people relied on e-commerce platforms to shop for daily supplies. Statistics from JD Daojia, a grocery delivery service of JD.com, showed that retail revenues shot up 450% year on year between January 27 and February 13, creating more pressure on logistics operations, according to state-owned Xinhua.

The JD.com spokesman declined to comment on whether the hiring plan was due to a labour shortage caused by the pandemic.

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According to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics last week, China’s unemployment ratio jumped to 6.2% in February, from 5.3% in January, and 5.2% in December – the largest month-on-month increase in the previous 18 months. The increased percentage indicates that roughly 5 million people have lost their jobs in the past two months, according to Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on China’s ambitions to end poverty in 2020. Due to the two-month nationwide lockdown, rural migrant workers were stranded at home, unable to return to their jobs, while agricultural productivity and sales of rural produce both declined.

Up to March 6, 14.2 million rural migrant workers returned to work in the cities but that represented only 52% of the number in normal times, according to Liu Yongfu, head of the State Council’s poverty relief office.

Internationally, demand for online shopping and shipments have surged as more countries are encouraging residents to stay indoors and in some cases implementing strict lockdown measures.

US companies including e-commerce giant Amazon, retailer Walmart, and pizza chain Domino’s also announced plans to hire over 382,000 new jobs for frontline delivery work as they try to cope with surging consumer demand amid the health crisis.

This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post.