of transactions across the industry in February was only half that in May, June, or July. Every
company responded to these losses by significantly lowering their prices. The study found that
the average delivery price per package across China, during the first half of 2020, was 11.3 RMB,
a fall of 7.8 percent compared to the same period last year. In Yiwu, the average price dropped by
32.8 percent, from February to May this year.
At the same time, to maintain or boost profits, these big express delivery companies shifted the
burden of lower prices to local courier stations and exploited delivery workers more harshly.
Most major delivery companies operate on a franchise model, with a network of courier stations
around the country. Local courier stations are responsible for their own profits and losses. They
are paid by the company for each package, then hire their own delivery workers to deliver
packages to customers in their area.
After the lockdown, many express delivery companies unilaterally announced that they would
reduce the per-package payment to local stations. In some cases, this payment was reduced to
as low as 0.5 RMB (~$0.07) per package. Since a delivery worker was usually paid about 1 RMB
(~$0.14) per package, at least before the pandemic, local stations did not even earn enough to
hire delivery staff, let alone cover for rent and other expenses.
Companies also implemented other measures to further extract profits from their local franchise
stations. Since May, local courier stations have been required to meet a drastically increased
monthly quota on the number of packages they deliver, and are punished 3 RMB per package if
they fall short.
Under such huge pressures, many local courier stations have gone bankrupt, leaving months of
wages in arrears for their delivery workers. Even those stations still struggling to operate are
forced to slash wages. Some workers reported that their wage had dropped from 1 RMB per
package to 0.8 RMB, or even lower.
Both in China and internationally, the ruling elites are using the Covid-19 pandemic to
implement further pro-company restructuring measures. The plight of delivery workers and
small franchise owners in China is not unique. Massive wage cuts and the cancellation of social
benefits, including insurance and pensions, have been reported in both private and public
sectors. Large sections of food delivery workers, manufacturing workers, bus drivers, public
school teachers, nurses, and base level civil servants are impacted by this restructuring.

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