Monopoly practices may backfire on China's mobile economy

By Chen Qingqing and Chu Daye Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/14 22:08:41

Experts urge lawmakers to ensure workers’ rights

Delivery staff sort out parcels in a store in Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province, in November 2017. Photo: VCG

Monopolies in some of China's sharing economy need to be broken down while there should be more legal improvements to ensure workers' rights, experts said Thursday.

China's booming sharing economy has been plagued with industry monopolies and rising complaints from workers about falling incomes and worsening work conditions in recent months.

The latest complaints include truck drivers' claims of falling incomes after the rise of Yunmanman, a freight transportation and logistics mobile app, and the 25 percent commission charged by ride-sharing service platform Didi Chuxing.

Didi Chuxing reportedly had more than a 90 percent market share as of the end of 2017, while Yunmanman, together with its sister app Huochebang, reportedly handles 13.59 billion tons out of the 18.28 billion tons of goods on the roads in China each day.

Liu Dingding, an independent industry analyst, told the Global Times Thursday that people shouldn't doubt that the sharing economy can achieve sustainability and develop in a sound fashion.

"The problem we see is that unchecked monopolies have led to some extreme practices that have repercussions," Liu said, noting that this situation can be corrected by market forces, with the help of government policies that foster healthy competition.

"If internet-based start-ups don't provide what they should for self-employed workers on their platforms, they will surely face problems when it comes to stock market listings, especially foreign listings. They will easily fall prey to short-sellers such as US-based Muddy Waters. But companies won't be inconsiderate," Liu said.

Yunmanman said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Tuesday that it is working actively on ways to report to and coordinate with the All-China Federation of Trade Unions. A joint committee is being planned to protect truck drivers' rights.

"Internet-based start-ups and the venture capital sector have been tarnished by some investors' blatant pursuit of profits through speculation in recent years," Liu said.

"Paradoxically, the theft of workers' benefits by some platforms will expedite the passage of improved, more stringent antimonopoly laws, of which these platforms could be the targets," Liu said.

Shen Jianfeng, vice director of the Law Institute of China University of Labor Relations, said these self-employed workers do not precisely meet the definition of employees as outlined in the nation's labor laws and regulations.

"However, these workers are somehow attached to the platforms, so to say the labor laws are entirely non-applicable to them is also wrong," Shen told the Global Times Thursday. "In cases where such platforms impose strong management on laborers, a hiring relationship should be deemed as existent."

In 2017, China's sharing economy surged 47.2 percent year-on-year to 4.9 trillion yuan ($770 billion), according to a report by the People's Daily.

A total of 7.16 million people worked for sharing-economy platforms as of last year, representing 9.7 percent of new employees in cities and towns, the report said.

"In foreign countries, such people are categorized as being attached to platforms and they are entitled to be covered by certain clauses of the relevant laws to ensure their rights. China could also work in this direction and improve related laws to protect them. For instance, expanding the applicable range of basic labor standards such as minimum wages," Shen said.

The All-China Federation of Trade Unions didn't reply to a faxed inquiry for comment from the Global Times as of press time on Thursday.

However, the union is accelerating efforts to bring people working in "nontraditional entities" including eight categories of labor, notably truck drivers and express delivery men, under the union's umbrella to provide protection, according to a Beijing Evening News report on March 8.

An employee surnamed Zeng at the car-hailing association in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, told the Global Times on Thursday that from what she knows, commission pricing isn't the top issue for the association. The group views accreditation and qualifications as more pressing matters, she said.

"Compared with commissions, self-employed platform workers seem to care more about how much they earn, which platform will provide a longer working relationship and whether they can meet various platforms' requirements," she said, noting that the drivers are not loyal to specific platforms.

Newspaper headline: Monopoly practices may backfire on sharing economy



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