Shanghai Plugs Holes in Welfare Net, Gig Workers Now Included

Shanghai Plugs Holes in Welfare Net, Gig Workers Now Included


Earlier, such schemes were available only to employees with contracts, leaving workers such as delivery riders and cab drivers out of social schemes.

As part of a nationwide effort to extend social benefits to China’s fast-growing gig economy, Shanghai has now included workers such as food delivery riders and cab drivers to its social insurance and assistance scheme. 

Beginning March, Shanghai’s flexible employees can participate in social insurance programs in line with a new employment promotion regulation announced by the municipality last month. Previously, such benefits were available only to employees with contracts. 

The new regulation directed districts across the city to “increase support and optimize the employment environment” for the flexible workforce. Gig workers will now be included in the vocational skills training and evaluation system, and can also apply for social insurance subsidies and employment subsidies.

The city government also directed online platforms that employ such workers to sign labor contracts or clarify the rights and obligations of both parties in written agreements. The platforms now also need to supervise the labor outsourcing companies that they partner with down the line to protect the legitimate rights and interests of workers.

“Shanghai will continue to support the cause by offering more preferential policies and employment opportunities and also improving social insurance and occupational injury protection,” stated a report in the local media, quoting a representative from Shanghai’s Human Resources and Social Security Bureau.

China’s booming digital economy, which is expected to account for more than half of China’s GDP by 2025, has seen a surge in flexible working positions such as delivery drivers, short video producers, and livestreamers. 

With its low entrance threshold, relatively fair pay, and flexible working hours, gig work has gained popularity, particularly among young Chinese either staring at fewer jobs or seeking more life balance to avoid grueling work schedules. 

In 2021, China had more than 200 million people working in this sector, roughly 27% of the country’s working force.

However, since many fall under a legal gray zone, their labor rights have been unprotected, often leading to complaints and sometimes even deaths. For example, a large proportion of China’s delivery riders simply sign up to the food delivery platform and pick orders at will. With no contractual obligation to the company, they receive no work injury insurance or social security.

Over the past two years, China has sped up efforts to improve welfare among such emerging occupations. China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security rolled out a protection policy for such workers in 2021, prompting at least eight cities and provinces including Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Guangdong to start pilot programs offering occupational injury insurance.

Editor: Apurva 
(Header image: VCG)

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