Making lives easy - and getting paid

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 June, 2010, 12:00am


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University students from less prosperous families often have to take part-time jobs to help support themselves. They often work as tutors or in sales. But a new job option has emerged recently: the 'errand generation' gets paid to pick up things like food and packages for others.

Most of the clients that these runners serve are fellow school mates or dormitory roommates who are better off.

Luo Tongtong, a first-year student at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, is a runner. He says many students would rather pay someone to get takeout food than go themselves. Necessity is the mother of business, so he took on this part-time job.

'I get one yuan for delivering a meal and I delivered 40 takeout meals last Saturday,' he says. 'It is much easier to earn money this way than with other part-time jobs.'

Luo hopes to relieve his parents' financial burden. He says he can earn about 500 yuan (HK$570) per month, which is enough to cover his living expenses for the month.

Li Meng, a second-year student at South Normal University, helps others shop online, charging one yuan per parcel they buy. 'I can earn up to 30 yuan a day if business is good.'

The income seems attractive, but it is not an easy job. Runners have to deal with irregular working hours and demanding clients.

Li says some runners get takeout food for others during lunch hour and have no time to eat themselves. 'Some even offer night-time snack delivery, so they don't get enough sleep. It's tough work,' he says.

'Some mean clients want to pay me less because I was late with the delivery. They think they because they are paying you, you have to give them what they want.'

The 'errand generation' is a hot topic. Many students feel it is a good thing, because it makes life easier for those who pay, and helps needy students make a living. But professors disagree. They say it is wrong to establish an employer-employee relationship between students. The rise of the errand generation may lead to inequality.