China’s Logistics Networks Under Strain as COVID Spreads Widely

As COVID-19 cases rise rapidly in China following a loosening of pandemic control measures, the country’s logistics networks are now facing unprecedented challenges. Many delivery outlets, shipment centers and storage parks have accumulated a large number of online orders, and many delivery personnel have been infected, leading to a decline in work efficiency.

Many cities were previously shut down during the “Double Eleven” shopping festival in early November, but now, although all restrictions have essentially been lifted, many logistics workers have become ill. One consumer in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, said on social media that as of December 17, he had nearly 124 shipments that had encountered delays, according to Time Finance‘s report.

Generally speaking, China’s express delivery chain is composed of merchants or factories, goods collection outlets, transshipment centers, and pickup stations. Problems with any link will lead to the failure of express delivery. Due to the shortage of personnel, many express outlets and transshipment centers have recently closed inbound and receiving channels, concentrated instead on dealing with existing orders.

China’s State Post Bureau pointed out at a recent meeting that although the express delivery industry is continuing to recover, companies need to deal with orders according to the pace of merchants, and affected by the pandemic, a shortage of deliverymen has emerged.

According to several delivery workers, many are now working while sick. One Hebei courier said that his colleagues generally returned to work after just three days of rest following their infection. “Those with minor symptoms choose to continue to work. Everyone is persistent, and some family members also provide help,” he said.

In order to solve the worker shortage, the Beijing Postal Administration urged the headquarters of express delivery enterprises to step up the deployment of forces from outside Beijing to help. Since December 14,, Cainiao and SF Express have dispatched more than 3,000 people to support Beijing. recently announced that it plans to recruit 14,000 people, including 5,000 front-line operators and 3,000 deliverymen.

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Many express outlets across the country are also carrying out self-help by recruiting temporary workers. However, although the daily salary and monthly salary have increased to a high level, recruitment is still not satisfactory. An employee in charge of a SF Express outlet in Sichuan said that in the past, daily salary was 200 yuan ($28.7), but now it is still difficult to hire qualified workers by providing 400 yuan per day.

One industry source said that a structural shortage of employees has been an issue for a long time now. The growth of the domestic e-commerce field is slowing down, but competition in the express delivery industry is unabated and the problems of high work intensity and declining salary of front-line employees have not been properly solved.