The sudden eviction of tens of thousands of migrant workers from their homes in Beijing is threatening the business model of the country’s booming ecommerce industry, according to the Financial Times. Low-wage migrant labor is used to transport everything from toothpaste to televisions across the “last mile” of China’s sophisticated logistics network. Dirt-cheap wages make it possible to order low-cost items that are not viable in higher-wage economies. But the government “clean-out” of workers prompted by a fatal dormitory fire a fortnight ago is placing pressure on a sector boasting giants such as Alibaba and JD.com that are among the world’s most valuable companies.
One courier for SF Express, China’s biggest logistics service, estimated that 20 of its distribution centers – about a 10th of its Beijing total – had been closed. He said six colleagues had to sleep in their delivery vehicles in temperatures of -5C after their houses were demolished. The company has since provided new dormitories to rehouse staff.