The Deliveryman’s Dilemma and Our Way Out

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“In the winter of 2022, I delivered food in Linyi City” reminded me of an old article in 2020 , “Takeaway Rider, Trapped in the System” , so I came up with this belated denunciation.

What is the price?

Food delivery has made life more convenient, but at what cost? In my opinion, there are at least 3

  1. Deliveryman’s life
  2. A more dangerous urban traffic environment
  3. More frequent social conflicts: between delivery staff and merchants, between customers, and between security guards…

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I see that the profit-driven food delivery platforms continue to compress the delivery time and reduce the per-order income of the delivery staff, and the cost behind it is the entire society.

The food delivery platform is essentially a service intermediary and scheduling platform, but by virtue of their dominant position and system design, they grab most of the profits of the food delivery industry and pass the cost on to the whole society. As a scheduling platform, when there is a problem with the scheduling, the platform does not take responsibility, but throws the problem to the merchant or exploits the delivery staff.

For example: the estimated delivery time shown to customers by the food delivery platform is the fastest delivery time calculated by the algorithm, which raises customers’ expectations. And when the delivery staff could not deliver in “time” due to some unexpected circumstances, customers complained because of their psychological gap, and the delivery company used this to deduct the income of the delivery staff. In this case, the money went into the pockets of the delivery company, and the conflict between delivery staff and customers intensified.

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What is the root cause of the deliveryman’s dilemma?

Where are the labor laws?
Food delivery platforms have already broken through the protection of labor laws through the design of labor outsourcing, allowing delivery workers to perform high-risk and high-intensity work, but their hard-earned income is arbitrarily deducted. They have excellent lawyers and clever system design, and wantonly squeeze laborers within the framework of the law, but is this reasonable?

Continuing to think about it, I found that this is not a problem that the law can solve.
Regardless of the form of employment, wages, as the price of labor, are determined by the supply and demand of labor. In recent years, the shortage of labor force is the root cause of the deterioration of the situation of delivery workers.

How to solve the unemployment problem in the era of AI intelligence?

The employment pressure has been increasing in recent years, which seems to be due to the Sino-US trade war and the new crown epidemic. But I think the arrival of the AI ​​era is the main reason, and the employment situation will not be good in the next 5 to 10 years.

According to the prediction of Western scientists, the AI ​​era will cause 98% of the population to lose their jobs. Some people say that technological progress is creating jobs while eliminating jobs, which is actually nonsense. AI can eliminate 10,000 jobs and create 100 new jobs. Intelligent AI is an unprecedented technological revolution, and the number and speed of its elimination of jobs are also unprecedented. Before society has bred enough new jobs, the job market is overcrowded.

And continue to use the previous investment to drive, the effect is minimal. Because in the past, an investment of 10 million yuan may bring employment for 1,000 people, but now there may be only 100 people, and in the future there may be only 10 people. The reason for diminishing marginal returns is that the industrial upgrading of the whole society tends to shift from labor-intensive to capital-intensive.

At present, the most effective way I can think of is to give subsistence allowances to the unemployed. The long-term and continuous subsistence allowances meet the basic survival guarantee of the unemployed, make some low-consumption groups not eager to find employment, ease the employment pressure of the whole society, balance the supply and demand relationship in the job market, and enhance the bargaining position of laborers.

On the other hand, subsistence allowances can also stimulate consumption, because survival is guaranteed, which will greatly reduce the need for savings.
At the same time, this is also an exploration of social practice adapted to the age of intelligence. The specific implementation method can be further studied, such as what conditions can receive the subsistence allowance, how much the subsistence allowance is paid every month, and whether the expenditure is through the issuance of national debt or taxation.
The theoretical model of Zhai Dongsheng, deputy dean of the School of International Relations at Renmin University of China, for distributing money to young people is a good reference, but it is relatively radical. It would be great if we could start from scratch, from less to more, discover problems, solve them, and advance step by step.

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