A teacher of the Huaiyin Institute of Technology in Huai’an, east China’s Jiangsu province, rides a shared bike in the campus, April 18, 2020. (Photo by Zhao Qirui/People’s Daily Online)

By Qiao Cai

The market turnover of China’s sharing economy stood at around 3.38 trillion yuan ($520 billion) in 2020, up 2.9 percent year on year, a recent report from the country’s State Information Center (SIC) showed.

Disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the market size of sharing economy forms involving offline activities, including shared transport, shared accommodation, and shared office, declined.

Sharing economy in the areas of knowledge and skill, health care as well as production capacity, meanwhile, saw substantial market expansion, with year-on-year growth rates reaching 30.9 percent, 27.8 percent, and 17.8 percent respectively, said the report on the development of China’s sharing economy.

Internet-based sharing of health care, which features efficiency and convenience, has benefited a great number of people amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A citizen surnamed Wang in Dalian, northeast China’s Liaoning province, who had trouble sleeping after the COVID-19 outbreak, experienced in person the advantages of online health care while consulting doctors via a mini-program on WeChat.

After typing in a description of her condition and making online payment, she received messages or calls from the doctors, and purchased medicine on prescription online, according to the citizen. After some time, her condition got a lot better.

The rapid expansion of new business forms and models of shared services and consumption has played a key role in effectively satisfying the daily needs of residents, restoring the domestic service industry and consumer market, and ensuring the steady recovery of the economy.

Besides shared services and consumption, shared manufacturing based on industrial Internet has also entered a new stage of development.

Last year, the XCMG IT Hanyun Industrial Internet Platform made emergency deployment of online equipment for the construction of the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei province, in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwanese multinational electronics contract manufacturer, switched to medical supply production during the pandemic by taking advantage of industrial Internet platforms.

By employing computing capabilities, pooling high-quality resources, and adopting related models, China’s tech giants Aliyun and Huawei contributed to the screening and development of anti-viral drugs.

The COVID-19 has forced traditional manufacturing companies to actively explore and try new models of shared manufacturing with Internet platform companies to facilitate the resumption of work and production while combating the epidemic.

Last year, about 830 million people engaged in the sharing economy of China, of which around 84 million were service providers, an increase of about 7.7 percent year on year, according to the report.

It also noted that 6.31 million of the participants were employed by platforms in fields of the sharing economy, up 1.3 percent compared with the previous year.

While providing a large number of jobs and sprouting plenty of new occupations, sharing economy has significantly widened employment channels for job hunters and increased the income of workers.

New occupations such as ride-hailing service provider, food deliveryman, live-streaming salesperson, online consultant, and e-sports player are increasingly popular with young people in China.

Driven by the sharing economy, the traditional pattern of employment based on the relationship between companies and employees has been gradually replaced by a new employment pattern featuring work relationship between platforms and individuals, which has led to changes to the structure of the job market.

Flexible employment, including self-employment, work under short-term contracts, and part-time employment, is seeing an increasing proportion in all forms of employment, and significantly alleviating the structural problems in the job market.

Affected by the epidemic, some service companies went out of business and their employees had no work to do temporarily, while companies in such fields as e-commerce and logistics were suffering from labor shortage.

Against such a background, the model of “employee sharing” has enabled the effective flow of labor resources and helped companies in various fields achieve win-win results, becoming a new approach to addressing difficulties in the fight against the epidemic.

Yu Fengxia, deputy director of the Sharing Economy Research Center under the SIC, noted that new forms of employment brought about by the sharing economy are more inclusive, significantly lowered the employment threshold, and have improved employment efficiency for workers.

Sharing economy platforms have become a “reservoir” of employment and effectively helped stabilize employment during the special period of the epidemic, Yu added.

China’s sharing economy is expected to rebound anywhere between 10 to 15 percent in 2021, maintaining an annual growth pace of over 10 percent in the following five years, the report predicted.

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