China to create workers' paradise for ride share drivers

China's Ministry of Transport, along with eight other agencies, has issued an edict that demands working conditions ride share operators provide for drivers must improve.

The main thrust of the new document, titled "Opinions to Strengthen the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Workers in the New Mode of Transportation", is for operators to become more transparent and humane.

Transparency will be achieved by offering more and more detailed information on pricing rules and how people get paid. Drivers must be be given more info about each ride before they accept.

That information must give drivers the chance to "form a reasonable income expectation."

Industry authorities, trade associations, and unions get to weigh in to determine the numbers. Beijing also wants unions to have a bigger role in the ride share industry - a call that shouldn't be taken as meaning they'll be able to exert much power. China's unions have input to Communist Party decision-making processes, but aren't independent.

Another change Beijing desires is for drivers to have more rest - and not just what they reckon is right but an amount of time calculated "scientifically".

To improve the working environment, licenses for enterprises, vehicles and drivers will be dependent on conditions. Taxi service areas should be constructed in places like hospitals, residential areas, commercial zones and transport hubs. These areas should allow for temporary stops so drivers can eat, park and go to the loo - as humans do.

Insurance also made the list of things that could improve - specifically professional injury protection for the driver.

The Ministry and other agencies plan on making sure ride share platforms comply. "We will crack down on illegal operations and encourage the use of information technology to strengthen accurate law enforcement," the document states, along with promises to monitor and take action against monopolistic behaviour and establish channels for reporting and handling complaints.

Early on in the pandemic, taxi drivers protested that they experienced financial difficulties and could not afford cab company fees, penalties or, in some cases, vehicle rent. By mid-April 2020, the non-profit Business & Human Rights Resource Centre reported 25 taxi driver protests occurring for the first months of the year - mostly including demands for rent reduction or cancellations. Comparatively, 2019 saw 54 protests across the entire year.

In 2021, Beijing implemented some reforms, including licensing requirements and an investigation into DiDi Chuxing for potential illicit taxi operations.

However, Chinese taxi drivers may have new competition to contend with, as robotaxis make their commercial debut and the jobs become automated. Just last week, Sixty square kilometres in Beijing's Economic and Technological Development Zone was approved for commercial operation of Chinese web giant Baidu's autonomous taxi service.

In our highly scientific and statistically representative readers poll, 52.3 per cent of you lot said you weren't ready for driverless taxis, while 47.7 per cent said bring it on. Stay tuned to see how China feels. ®

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