SOURCE / COMPANIES
Workers’ deaths draw public attention to development model of internet enterprises
Internet firms should be tech-driven: insiders
Published: Jan 07, 2021 10:31 PM

Photo: Xinhua



Amid an uproar over the sudden death of a Pinduoduo employee, another death - involving a deliveryman for online food delivery platform ele.me - has drawn public attention to the rights and interests of employees in internet enterprises.

With the rapid development of the internet sector, the working conditions of front-line staff have become a closely watched issue, along with the trend of unsustainable development, said analysts.

A 43-year-old rider surnamed Han died on December 21 while delivering food. Ele.me on Wednesday told Han's family that he had no connection with the platform, but the platform was willing to provide 2,000 yuan ($309.5) to his family out of compassion, media reported.

Han reportedly worked for Fengniao, a sub-brand of delivery services under ele.me. In its user agreement, it noted that registrant riders do not have any form of labor relationship with the company, according to media reports.

"Such a case is an illness of the platform economy. This form of service has been in trouble for two or three years, resulting from the choice of platforms to outsource delivery services. Riders don't have a direct employment relationship with platforms, which is intended to reduce the employment cost of enterprises, and to reduce labor disputes," Fang Chaoqiang, a lawyer at the Beijing Yingke Law Firm, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"Like any other fast ascendant industry, it has the nature to go after profit, which to some extent leads to the abuse of privacy and unfair competition. The development of Chinese internet companies should comply with national laws and regulations, and efficiency should not be at the cost of social fairness," Zhang Yi, CEO of Shenzhen-based iiMedia Research, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Instead of investing a lot in basic technology, some Chinese internet companies hunger after quick success and instant profit. Making fast money in gaming, finance and entertainment, and the lack of basic research, make them vulnerable to a possible crackdown on new technologies in the future, CEO Zhang said.

"Chinese internet companies should think beyond making quick money. A healthy corporate culture and building of social responsibility are essential for long-term growth," he added.

Zhang Xiaorong, director of the Beijing-based Cutting-Edge Technology Research Institute, said that the internet industry as a whole should reflect on this unsustainable development model. 

Wang Peng, an assistant professor at the Gaoling School of Artificial Intelligence at the Renmin University of China, said that the cases of ele.me and Pinduoduo showed that some internet companies are regressing. The industry was supposed to be a technology-driven one, but it has become labor-intensive.

"The internet industry has only developed in China for about 20 years. Benefiting from the rapid development of networks, intelligent terminals and a huge population, China has a large number of incremental markets, leading to brutal growth of internet companies." said Wang.

He noted that China's regulatory and legal environment should keep pace with the development of the internet. Since 2019, the regulatory environment has changed a lot. Good companies are able to adapt to the changes, which is a sorting-out process.


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