Live-streaming jobs thrive in Northeast China as economy struggles: report

 Images from Ingkee, a live-streaming mobile app that the Chinese company says has been downloaded by more than 50 million users. Photo: Ingkee

China’s flourishing live-streaming sector is helping create jobs for young people in China’s northeast provinces which have been experiencing an economic downturn, aging population, and workforce outflow, according to a recent report by Tencent Technology.

More than half of the 20 most popular streamers on most live-streaming platforms are from Northeast China, according to data provided to Tencent Technology by several live-streaming platforms.

While there is a big difference in terms of the content produced by streamers from China’s southern and northern parts, streamers from Northeast China are more popular than their southern counterparts because of their candid and talkative nature as well as good performance ability. In contrast, streamers from China’s southern areas are more soft and restrained, the report said.

While some young people turn to streaming for its flexibility and simply out of hobby, most people in Northeast China take live streaming as a source of income to subsidize their family or make a living.

The falling economy of Northeast China somehow promoted the rise of live-streaming among young people in this area, the report said.

In 2015, the northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning ranked among the  bottom five of China’s 31 provinces for GDP growth, while in the first quarter of 2016, Liaoning ranked the lowest for GDP growth, and the only province across China reporting a contraction of 1.3%, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics recently.

It is also reported that the resident population of Liaoning province was 43.824 million by the end of 2015, 90,000 less compared with the previous year. It was also the first time that the province’s resident population saw a decline in the past 17 years, which is attributed to the economic downturn to some extent.

Endowed with coal and oil, the north-east industrialized under Japanese military control in the 1930s. Mao Zedong later made it the heartland of heavy manufacturing. But its star faded as China opened to the world in the 1980s. China conducted a reform of the loss-making state firms in the late 1990s, and about a quarter of the 30 million lay-offs were in the northeast.

But private companies are not able to provide enough jobs either, and the average per capita income in the northeast three provinces is less than 3,000 yuan, according Tencent Technology.

In contrast, the average income of a streamer on streaming platforms could be more than 5,000 yuan.

“An ordinary streamer’s income may not be enough to support his or her life in a first-tier city, but it is enough for them to live in a third or fourth-tier city. This is why many young people in Northeast China take part in live streaming these years,” said a staff working for YY, a live-streaming APP in China.

But as live-streaming flourishes in China’s growing mobile-video market which is hungry for sexy, edgy content reflecting young people’s taste and lifestyle, a likely problem facing young streamers is the fiercer competition, which might trigger a devaluation of their performances.

Xiao Xin (pseudonym), a 24-year-old girl from Northeast China’s Anshan city, could earn more than 10,000 yuan in her first three months of performing on a streaming app, sometimes more than 30,000 yuan with some rich men giving her extra tips, but as more and more people join live streaming, her average income each month is only about 5,000 yuan now.

The other reason why streamers’ incomes are decreasing is that the streamers are required to split the income with the streaming platforms.

Besides, being in the online content business in China means they also have to make compromise in accordance to the government’s strict content restrictions.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced a three-year revival plan to boost northeast China’s flagging economy, which an official with the NDRC said would not be a government “blood transfusion”. The plan involves 127 major projects in the northeast region from 2016 to 2018, and will cover sectors including transport, energy, water conservation, agriculture, as well as urban and rural development, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

The official also said more than 1 trillion yuan (US$150.2 billion) will be invested in the projects, financed by private companies as well as central and local governments. The money will not be spent on industries suffering from overcapacity, but go to key areas creating new growth, such as infrastructure and emerging industries.

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