Poverty-stricken regions embrace digital job opportunities like outsourced customer service

A farmer promotes his peanuts on a livestreaming app in Hebei Province. Photo: IC

The development of e-commerce is injecting vitality into China’s poverty reduction and rural revitalization efforts. Enterprises and the government are working together, dynamically integrating technology, education and employment through customer service phone calls and logistics express orders, allowing more people to connect with the digital age.


On November 11, when the “Singles’ Day” shopping festival started, He Lina stared at the constantly rising transaction volume on the e-commerce platform on her computer screen. When the customer hotline rang, she kindly and skillfully answered customers’ doubts. She took 105 calls that day, and was congratulated by colleagues, customer service trainers and new trainees. That month, her salary went straight to 10,000 yuan ($1,526).


He never thought she could easily lose the label of a housewife in a remote mountain village.


In May, China’s first “customer service county” landed in He’s hometown, Xunwu county in East China’s Jiangxi Province, a state-level impoverished county that once had 65 poor villages and nearly 30,000 poor households. Xunwu authorities built customer experience centers, and enterprises provided digital service personnel training, which not only offered consumers with better shopping experience, but also provided employment opportunities for rural youth.


New customer service staff joined the business through the major online shopping platforms like Taobao and Tmall. The calls from all over the country have brought new hope to this small county that was once underdeveloped.


In the past, He once found a job with a monthly salary of 2,000 yuan in a training institution, which went bankrupt over the COVID-19 epidemic this year. Even though life was poor, He was hesitant to leave her hometown for a job as she worried about her elderly parents and young children.


But now, after He joined the customer service recruitment and training program jointly launched by Alibaba Group and the Xunwu county government, she said her life has been colorful. “Just working in my hometown, I can take care of my family. In addition, I learned a lot of e-commerce knowledge in the customer experience center, where I also had a window to communicate with the outside world,” said He.


The customer service training in Xunwu county has been carried out for nine session training courses, which has created 200 new direct employment opportunities and also driven more than 2,000 people to increase their income by digital means, including disabled people from poor families, military veterans, and food delivery workers who once worked in other cities.


“In this trend of employment, more young people are choosing to stay in their hometown, not only for a job, but also for the realization of self-worth. Their passion has brought new vitality to a county that was once heavily hollowed out and also brought new opportunities for the development of China’s entire e-commerce industry,” Ge Xinxian, commissioner of poverty alleviation program from Alibaba Group, told the Global Times.


According to the Ministry of Commerce, online retail sales in poverty-stricken counties reached 239.2 billion yuan in 2019, up 33 percent year on year, boosting employment and income for 5 million farmers in poor areas.


With the further development of China’s “Internet Plus,” more e-commerce enterprises have a stronger sense of social responsibility.


Best Group, for example, launched its Agricultural Excellence Plan in 2018, which aims to help farmers expand the popularity of local agricultural products and provide convenient sales and transportation methods. By September 2020, more than 7.75 million kilograms of agricultural products had been sold under the plan, which earned profits of more than 63 million yuan.


At the same time, China’s internet, transportation, logistics, warehousing and other infrastructure to facilitate the development of e-commerce continue to improve. By the end of June 2020, 98 percent of poverty-stricken villages in China had installed online optical fiber, 96.6 percent of townships had set up courier service outlets, and all 832 state-level poverty-stricken counties that currently have shaken off poverty had all set up e-commerce service centers, achieving full coverage of rural e-commerce management and logistics distribution networks, Xinhua reported.


“Rural residents’ jobs are getting more rewarding and convenient. We believe that a better life is still ahead of us,” Ge said.


Source: Global Times

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