Discover more from Pekingnology
Life as a Migrant Food Delivery Rider in Shanghai
Making ends meet on $1,064 a month, for a separated family of three
Pekingnology often delved into grand and overarching themes, often navigating the complex terrains of policy and abstract concepts. Today, let’s detour to zoom in on something distinctly more microscopic.
Recently, a video on China's popular social media platform, Douyin, the Chinese mainland sister of TikTok, received an impressive 366,000 likes, 158,000 shares, and 94,000 comments. The clip features an interviewer’s Q&A with who appears to be a migrant worker in Shanghai. Working as a food delivery rider for Meituan, one of China’s leading delivery platforms, the unidentified man details how he allocates his monthly income of 7,800 yuan ($1,064) for his separated family of three.
Someone has uploaded it to YouTube (only in Chinese)
Q: "How much did you earn this month?"
A: “I completed a total of 1,300 orders this month, and the average pay per order is 6 yuan. So, in total, I earned 7,800 yuan. Then last month, I had to pay 200 yuan for refunding a damaged cake. I also spent 200 yuan to repair my electric bike last month. So, in total, I received a salary of 7,400 yuan."
Q: "So, how much money can you save in a month?"
A: "I can't save much money; I have a mortgage back in my hometown and have to make a monthly payment of 2,600 yuan. This is the 9th year of paying off my mortgage, and I have 14 more years to go. I have a wife and child living in a county town, and I send them 2,000 yuan a month for living expenses."
Q: "Is 2,000 yuan enough for the household's living expenses?"
A: "If it were in Shanghai, it definitely wouldn't be enough. But back in my hometown, my wife is frugal with living expenses, so we can manage. The tuition and other costs for the child are also manageable if we're careful with spending."
Q: "Do you have any other expenses? Any personal expenses?"
A: "In Shanghai, I rent a bunk bed for myself, which costs 1,000 yuan a month. Even this 1,000 yuan-bed is considered very low by Shanghai standards."
Q: "Yeah, that makes sense. So what do you do about meals?"
A: "I cook my own meals and never eat out. If I cook for myself, it costs about 20 yuan a day, which comes out to 600 yuan a month. I try to save by doing this."
Q: “With just 20 yuan a day, do you get enough to eat?"
A: "When I'm hungry, I'll buy some steamed buns to have a quick bite and fill up my stomach. If I'm running a lot of deliveries, I'll buy a steamed bun."
Q: "So with this lifestyle, how much money can you save in a month?"
A: "I spend 300 yuan a month on renting a battery. Normally, I smoke a little; I buy low-end cigarettes that cost 10 yuan a pack, and I go through a pack a day because I'm so tired. That's another 300 yuan a month. As for clothes, I basically don't buy any. I just wear my work uniform, alternating between two sets."
Q: "So with all these miscellaneous expenses, how much money can you actually save in a month? Have you ever calculated it?"
A: "I did the math myself. My mortgage is 2,600 yuan, I send 2,000 yuan to my wife and kid, that's 4,600 yuan. Then rent and utilities are 1,000 yuan, so that makes it 5600 yuan. Food costs me 600 yuan a month, so that's 6,200 yuan, right? I spend 300 yuan on battery rental and another 300 on cigarettes, so that's 6,800 yuan. My salary is 7,800 yuan, minus 200 yuan for damaged food and cakes, and another 200 yuan for maintenance fees. That leaves me with 600 yuan for the month. After I top up my phone for 50 yuan, how much is left? 550 yuan."
Q: "After all this hard work, you can save less than 600 yuan a month. Do you think life like this makes you happy?"
A: "What's there to be unhappy about? There's no other option. I do whatever job is available. At least it covers the household expenses. My wife and child can get by, and I can even manage to save a little over 500 yuan, right?"
Q: "Do you feel that the mortgage for your house puts a lot of financial pressure on you?"
A: "Yes, there's pressure from the mortgage, but there's no other option. I grew up in the countryside, in the mountains. The village I come from doesn't even have schools anymore, just a few people left. I have a child now. That's why I bought a house in the county town. To attend school there, I have to have a house. You know what I mean? Without a house, my child can't go to school. There's just no other way."
Q: “Teachers at the school might ask about your family situation. Would you tell your child about your job?"
A: "I usually don't talk about my job because, to be honest, if you say you're in food delivery, people generally look down on you. I can't even tell my kid about it now, right? Fearing it might affect his thoughts. But it doesn't matter when my child grows up. This month I managed to save more than 500 yuan. Last month the weather was hotter, this month is cooler, so I can make more deliveries. Just have to work hard myself."