The Renmin University of China has issued a research report entitled “Measurement of Employment Opportunities Derived from Alibaba Retail Platform and a Study on Platform Employment System”. The report estimates that a total of 40.82 million jobs were created in China through Alibaba’s retail platform in 2018. This includes 15.58 million direct jobs (transaction-related jobs) and 25.24 million indirect jobs.
Of the 26 business categories on the platform, the top three business categories – clothing, shoes, hats & textiles; daily commodities; and home appliances & audio-visual equipment – created 4.09 million, 2.84 million and 1.62 million direct jobs respectively. It added that Alibaba’s retail platform plays an important role in generating a variety of forms of employment in China.
The report, released by the School of Labor and Human Resources, Renmin University of China, through a study of employment data and onsite investigations, reached the following conclusions:
1. First of all, derived from 2012 China National Input-Output Table data calculations; we attained the employment promotion coefficient. Then, through analyzing the monthly sales volumes of 26 business categories on the Alibaba retail platform, we calculated the number of jobs created throughout the Alibaba retail platform ecosystem. In 2018, a total of 40.82 million jobs had been created through the Alibaba retail platform in China, including 15.58 million direct jobs (transaction-related jobs) and 25.24 million indirect jobs. Of the 26 business categories on the platform, the top three business categories – clothing, shoes, hats & textiles; daily commodities; and home appliances & audio-visual equipment – accounted for 4.09 million, 2.84 million and 1.62 million direct jobs respectively.
2. As well as serving the demand side, the Alibaba retail platform also attends to the supply side and drives its development. In order to facilitate the development of the entire industry chain, it uses the retail platform as the driver to promote employment in all segments including production, circulation and retail, thereby establishing an employment ecosystem via the Alibaba retail platform.
Firstly, new clusters emerged in the production segment, which drove the growth of bricks-and-mortar economy. At the same time, this had a direct impact on local entrepreneurship and employment.
(1) local entrepreneurship was stimulated and the job market was reinvigorated, which instigated migrant workers to return to live in their hometowns.
(2) It enabled an increasing number of retirees and housewives to work flexibly, thanks to the local job market’s new sense of vitality.
(3) traditional farmers and craftsmen, whose former focus was solely on the production or processing of traditional agriculture, were now participating in e-commerce circulation and retailing due to the impact of the Alibaba retail platform.
Secondly, new forms of circulation in terms of the circulation of goods have emerged to drive employment growth. New jobs have been created in the logistics and delivery sector, as well as in online stores, and the e-commerce segments of traditional manufacturers, as they immerse themselves in online retail.
Thirdly, a new environment for service providers has taken shape in the retail segment. Led by the digital economy and its related platforms, new markets for innovative entrepreneurship have opened up, requiring significant manpower. As well as driving employment, the ecosystem has created many new job posts, such as robot trainers, operation agent trainers, Taobao streamers, DingTalk digital managers, etc.
3. Over the past two decades, Alibaba has established itself as a key component of the digital economy. Empowered by its digital platforms, Alibaba has also generated a diverse digital employment ecosystem. This report categorizes jobs created through Alibaba’s digital economy into five: the transaction of goods; online service transactions; offline service transactions; e-tailer transactions; and direct employment by information technology companies. In contrast with traditional industry-based or regional employment systems, digital employment ecosystems feature smart connectivity, information integration, data-based decision-making, and digitalized operations and management. In addition, digital platforms have become a third method with which to allocate human resources and match the supply and demand of the labor market during the digital economy.
From macro-economic, regional and consumer perspectives, the report evaluates the mechanisms behind the Alibaba retail platform driving job creation in China. Our findings indicate that traditional industry clusters have been empowered by digitalization via Alibaba’s platform, as well as the new bespoke requirements of consumers. Not only has it opened up new consumer markets, it has also enriched the depth and quality of the labor market.
From a macro-economic perspective, Alibaba has stimulated employment growth through expanding domestic demand. In terms of regional industries, the amplification of industry clusters has helped scale up employment throughout the industry chain. Through the integration of online and offline consumption, the platform has helped create more jobs. When it comes to consumers, China’s retail market has transformed significantly and underwent considerable integration, which has stimulated consumption that is in turn driving job creation, especially due to the development of new retail practices integrating online and offline consumption. Also, as consumers’ needs have intensified, the platform has expanded into countless new segments, thus improving the scale and quality of jobs stemming from the supply side.
To sum up, the Alibaba digital platform has generated masses of jobs for a wide range of professions. In terms of creating new forms of employment in China, it leads the labor market.
The 2019 Government Work Report issued by the State Council elevated an “employment-first” strategy to the status of macro policy for the first time, with the mandate of focusing on and supporting employment as its primary target for achieving stable economic growth. In the past decade, digital and platform economies have become the new driver for entrepreneurship and employment, while also playing an important role in facilitating employment and improving employee income. Renmin University of China’s School of Labor and Human Resources research team nominated Alibaba to be a case study in regard to the contribution of digital and platform economies to stable growth and employment.
From November 2018 to March 2019, the research team conducted in-depth interviews in regard to various aspects of Alibaba’s digital economy, including Tmall, Taobao, Lingshoutong (Alibaba’s solution for offline retailers), AliExpress, Koubei (Alibaba’s local services business), ELEME (Alibaba’s online food delivery service), DingTalk (an enterprise communication and collaboration platform developed by Alibaba) and several Taobao Villages. The team also projected employment figures based on Alibaba retail platform data and discussed three major topics in its report. First, the new employment systems and models created by Alibaba’s digital economy. Second, the mechanisms of Alibaba’s digital economy and how it is driving employment growth. Third, the number of jobs created via the impact of Alibaba’s digital economy.
Compared to previous reports measuring employment opportunities, the 2019 report suggested the following improvements. First, it studied Alibaba’s employment ecosystem to measure the jobs created by means of Alibaba’s retail platform’s impact. Second, it took the further step of analyzing the mechanisms for job creation provided by the digital economy. Third, it enhanced the model and methods for measuring employment based on the China National Input-Output Table.