Published: 11:24, July 21, 2020 | Updated: 21:59, June 5, 2023
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Govt gives digital economy new impetus
By Xu Wei

Guideline frees up development of new business models to provide more employment opportunities


The central government has scaled up measures to spur the growth of the digital economy and the development of new business models in a bid to further free up consumer spending and create more jobs nationwide.

A guideline issued on Wednesday by the National Development and Reform Commission and 12 other central government departments pledged to bolster the growth of 15 new business models, including online education, internet healthcare, telecommuting, livestreaming and e-commerce.

In the document, authorities hailed the irreplaceable role of the digital economy in the nation's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that it must serve as the new engine for the country's socioeconomic growth.

The government will encourage the integrated development of online and offline education by taking steps to allow some schools to purchase high-caliber online teaching resources for their curriculums.

More work will be done to improve protection of intellectual rights and oversight of content and to lower the threshold for market access in the online education sector, the guideline said.

In bolstering the growth of internet healthcare, authorities pledged to further shore up the development of smart hospitals and allow eligible internet healthcare services to be included in health insurance payment programs.

The moves came as China's emerging sectors led the economic rebound in the second quarter of the year, with stronger-than-expected GDP growth of 3.2 percent.

Online sales of goods rose by 14.3 percent year-on-year in the first half of the year, while total retail sales fell by 11.4 percent.

The turnover of large online education businesses rose by 19.4 percent year-on-year in the period, while exports via cross-border e-commerce rose by 12 percent, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

Zuoyebang, an online education startup in Beijing, said in a statement that it has been encouraged because the policy will set the stage for quicker growth of the sector and enable further integration of online and offline education models.

The company, which saw a strong rise in user numbers in the first half, expressed the hope that the government will enable online education providers to fully participate in the everyday curriculum of the nation's public schools.

Surging demand for online education allowed the company to make 10,000 jobs available nationwide in the first half, it said. The guideline also highlighted the need to further push the digital transformation of traditional sectors and expand new growth engines of the real economy.

Leading businesses in traditional sectors and internet companies will be encouraged to develop platforms to offer comprehensive services, such as transaction and logistics assistance, with financial institutions set to be encouraged to offer their services to such platforms.

The guideline pledged support for the construction of infrastructure for self-driving, automated logistics and the development of robotics for work in dangerous environments.

To make more room for job creation, the guideline offered greater support to self-employed individuals, including those using e-commerce and livestreaming platforms.

Online platforms that promote the sharing of knowledge and experience will receive more support, and online platforms will be encouraged to cut the fees they charge self-employed individuals in transactions.

The authorities also pledged to heighten protection of labor rights for individuals on flexible pay arrangements, saying that online platforms must ensure employees' basic payments, plus rest periods and work safety.

The government will explore social security policies that can meet the demand for laborers working on multiple platforms and for different employers, the guideline said.

Zhang Chenggang, a job market researcher at Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing, said the importance of new business models was fully illustrated during the country's coronavirus response, as they offered strong impetus to economic recovery and job creation.

"Moreover, supporting the growth of new business models, generally powered by digital technologies, can also help the country promote the transformation and upgrading of its economy," he said.

In the meanwhile, as new business models spawn more jobs via flexible pay arrangements, the government must step up efforts to provide institutional support for such employees, because many of them do not even have insurance in the event of occupational injuries, he added.