Electronic song

Workers watch live streams to find jobs on China’s TikTok

Smartphone in hand, Xiao Simu walked through a huge carrot field in Shuangliao, a city in northeast China near the border with North Korea. In the livestream, made in September, he showed dozens of workers harvesting carrots in the sun. One comment asked how much the carrots cost. “We don’t sell carrots,” replied the 34-year-old. “We hire people to pull the carrots.”

Xiao, who runs a recruitment agency in Jilin province, started hiring workers in August through the short video app Kuaishou. It broadcasts live for up to four hours a day, advertising jobs harvesting carrots, hauling spring onions or processing chicken pieces. It occasionally broadcasts live from the fields. At other times, it loops videos of chicken farms and production lines. “People could see the real work environment as if they were there themselves,” Xiao said. Rest of the world. “They could see how the work is done, so they don’t feel unfamiliar or unhappy when they get here.”

Live streaming first became popular in China as a form of entertainment, but in recent years it has found its way into every aspect of daily life – from shopping to education to matching and now, recruiting. Several short video and job search apps have introduced live streaming features, which are now most popular in the blue-collar job market, where employers need to hire a large number of workers with few requirements. prior experience, recruiters said. Rest of the world.

Kuaishou, a TikTok-like video app popular among blue-collar workers, rolled out Kwai Recruitment, a special section for live recruitment feeds, in January and recorded 250 million monthly active users in the second quarter of 2022. In its job channels, recruitment agents – turned live broadcasters advertise jobs for delivery drivers, package handlers, rabbit farm workers and babysitters. Hosts tout punctual payments, free accommodation, good meals, or, for male applicants, an abundance of female colleagues. They are also clarifying the restrictions: “Do not apply if you are over 55,” reads an on-screen slogan in a factory jobs live stream. “No criminal record, no tattoos,” reads another factory job description.

The app allows viewers to ask questions in the live comment section or submit their cell phone numbers by simply tapping a floating on-screen link.


Recruitment agencies traditionally hire for factories and farms through offline job fairs, employment websites or postings on WeChat. Agents say live streaming is a cheaper way for them to connect with low-skilled workers. Han Song, a 33-year-old agent turned live broadcaster who specializes in electronics factory jobs in Shenzhen’s technology hub, said Rest of the world that his company used to spend tens of thousands of dollars posting job vacancies online, but live streaming on Douyin and Kuaishou allows them to reach a wider audience at no additional cost.

Jiaxi Hou, a researcher at the University of Tokyo who studies disadvantaged communities in Kuaishou, said Rest of the world that Kwai Recruitment could potentially present job opportunities to disadvantaged people who use the app as their main digital platform, such as the older generation, the illiterate and the poor in underdeveloped regions.

Live streams, where videos of all kinds of workplaces can be seen via infinite scroll, could also inspire viewers to seek out alternative opportunities beyond their original imaginations, Hou said.

But, as live recruiting becomes more popular, video platforms are also encountering issues that offline job markets have long struggled with, such as scams, late payments and age discrimination. gender and ethnicity. Ma Legang, a 27-year-old former electronics factory worker in Shanghai, said Rest of the world he was looking for jobs on Kwai Recruitment, but he would need to check offline agencies or employers before making a decision. “On the internet, it’s just talking,” Ma said. “You can’t believe everything.”

It’s hard for viewers to tell whether or not the scenes displayed in the live streams accurately represent actual workplaces. Some recruiters pretended to be production line workers, broadcasting live in front of piles of phone cases and cables.

Xiao, the Jilin-based recruiter, said that instead of overselling jobs and attracting applicants who would later drop out, he tried to make his feeds as realistic as possible: carrot harvest workers would be paid 0 .6 yuan (8.4 cents) for each meter of land they work on. They would get cheap food like potatoes and eggplant. Everyone lives together in tents.

Although hundreds of thousands of people listened to his live broadcasts, Xiao said he receives up to 200 applications a day. In the past month, he has hired over 50 people. “Let’s be honest. Nobody would do that if they came from a wealthy family,” he said in a recent livestream. “Everyone is here because they are poor and want to improve their lives.”