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Baemin, Coupang Eats scramble to retain delivery drivers

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A delivery driver opens a container on the back of his scooter before leaving to deliver food in Seoul, Feb. 4, 2021. Yonhap
A delivery driver opens a container on the back of his scooter before leaving to deliver food in Seoul, Feb. 4, 2021. Yonhap

By Kim Jae-heun

The number of food delivery workers has been declining since the government eased social distancing rules for the COVID-19 pandemic in early May, as fewer people get their food delivered, according to industry officials Thursday. Those who have left the food delivery industry are finding new jobs as taxi drivers and in other professions because they cannot make ends meet by only delivering food.

Against this backdrop, food delivery firms have been scrambling to retain delivery drivers by guaranteeing them a stable income through new payment systems.

Coupang Eats has recently offered to pay its part-time drivers on a daily and weekly basis in Gangnam, Seocho and Songpa districts in Seoul. They will be paid 170,000 won ($130.88) per day regardless of how much food they deliver, except on rainy days when the payment increases to 190,000 won.

Delivery workers are also granted a one-hour break but they have to work nine hours from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. They can choose to work five or six days per week.

Coupang Eats is also adopting a salary system for the delivery drivers it employs directly. Drivers are contracted for a maximum three months and receive a fixed income of between 24 million won and 27 million won per year.

"We had so many people wanting to work as delivery drivers during COVID-19. However, as fewer people order food online and drivers' incomes decrease, a number of delivery workers have quit. We are working to balance out the supply and demand of drivers by reviewing various countermeasures," a food delivery firm official said.

Woowa Brothers, operator of the country's largest food delivery service Baedal Minjok, will hire regular delivery workers. However, the new drivers have to undergo six months of training. Their annual salary is fixed at 31.2 million won and they can earn up to 45.6 million won including bonuses.

"After the pandemic restrictions ended, the market changed rapidly and many of our delivery drivers wanted permanent positions. We will make further adjustments to our salary system as we test it. However, we have no plans for the time being to adopt a weekly pay system," a Woowa Brothers said.

Delivery drivers are still not fully satisfied with Coupang Eats and Woowa Brothers' new recruitment systems, as they still constitute a reduction in pay.

Also, some of the new systems do not support compensation for gas prices or insurance.

"With the new monthly pay system, I will make 30 percent less than what I made during the pandemic. Here, oil prices went up recently and it is too much for delivery drivers to handle when they also have to cover insurance fees on their own," a food delivery driver surnamed Kang said.

Kim Jae-heun

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