Workers are watching livestreams to find jobs on China's TikTok … – Rest of World

With a smartphone in his hand, Xiao Simu walked through a massive carrot field in Shuangliao, a city in northeastern China near the border with North Korea. In the livestream, made in September, he showed dozens of workers harvesting carrots in the sun. A comment asked how much the carrots cost. “We don’t sell carrots,” the 34-year-old replied. “We are hiring people to pull out the carrots.” 
Xiao, who runs a recruitment agency in Jilin province, began hiring workers in August through short-video app Kuaishou. He livestreams for up to four hours a day, advertising jobs harvesting carrots, transporting spring onions, or processing chicken parts. He occasionally livestreams from the fields. At other times, he plays videos of the farms and chicken production lines on repeat. “People could see the real work environment as if they were there themselves,” Xiao told Rest of World. “They could see how the work is done, so they would not feel unfamiliar or unhappy when they got here.” 
Livestreaming first became popular in China as a form of entertainment, but over the past few years, it has found its way into all aspects of everyday life — from shopping to education to matchmaking, and now, job recruitment. Several short-video and job-hunting apps have introduced livestream features, which are now most popular in the blue-collar labor market, where employers need to hire large numbers of workers with few requirements of prior experience, recruiters told Rest of World
Kuaishou, a TikTok-like video app popular among blue-collar workers, rolled out Kwai Recruitment, a special section for recruitment livestreams, in January and recorded 250 million monthly active users in the second quarter of 2022. In its job channels, recruitment agents-turned-livestreamers advertise jobs for delivery drivers, package handlers, rabbit-farm workers, and babysitters. The hosts tout on-time payments, free accommodation, nice meals, or, for the male candidates, an abundance of female colleagues. They also make the restrictions clear: “Don’t apply if you are above 55,” reads an on-screen slogan in a livestream about factory jobs. “No criminal records, no tattoos,” another factory job description says. 
The app allows viewers to ask questions in the live comment section or submit their mobile phone numbers with a single tap on a floating link on the screen. 
Recruitment agencies traditionally hire for factories and farms through offline job fairs, job websites, or posts on WeChat. Agents say livestreaming is a cheaper way for them to connect with low-skilled workers. Han Song, a 33-year-old agent-turned-livestreamer who specializes in electronic factory jobs in the tech hub of Shenzhen, told Rest of World that his company used to spend tens of thousands of dollars placing job ads online, but livestreaming on Douyin and Kuaishou allows them to reach a bigger audience at no extra cost. 
Jiaxi Hou, a researcher at the University of Tokyo who studies the underclass communities on Kuaishou, told Rest of World that Kwai Recruitment could potentially present job opportunities to disadvantaged people who use the app as their main digital platform, such as the elder generation, the illiterate, and poor people in underdeveloped regions. 
The livestream feeds, where one can see videos from all kinds of workplaces via infinite scrolling, might also inspire viewers to look for some alternative opportunities beyond their original imagination, Hou said.
But, as livestreaming recruitment becomes more popular, video platforms are also encountering problems that offline job markets have long had to deal with, like scams, overdue payments, and discrimination based on age, gender and ethnicity. Ma Legang, a 27-year-old former electronic factory worker in Shanghai, told Rest of World he had been looking for jobs on Kwai Recruitment, but he would need to check out the agencies or employers offline before making a decision. “On the internet, it’s just talking,” Ma said. “You cannot believe everything.”
It’s hard for viewers to tell whether or not the scenes displayed in livestreams accurately represent the actual workplaces. Some recruiters have pretended to be production line workers, livestreaming in front of piles of phone cases and cables. 
Xiao, the Jilin-based recruiter, said that instead of overselling the jobs and attracting candidates who would later drop out, he tries to make his streams as realistic as possible: Carrot-harvest workers would be paid 0.6 yuan (8.4 cents) for every meter of land they work on. They would get cheap food like potatoes and eggplants. Everyone lives together in tents. 
Although hundreds of thousands of people have tuned in to his livestreams, Xiao said he receives up to 200 applications a day. Over the past month, he has hired more than 50 people. “Let’s just be honest. No one would do this if they come from a well-off family,” he said in a recent livestream. “Everyone is here because they are poor, and want to improve their lives.” 

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