By 2035, the “Alibaba economy” could generate about 30% of all the jobs available in China’s digital economy, according to a new report published by management advisory firm Boston Consulting Group.
The just-released study “Year 2035: 400 Million Job Opportunities in the Digital Age” said the e-commerce giant, which has expanded into cloud computing, financial technology, media and entertainment, could account for as many as 122 million of the 415 million total jobs available in China’s digital economy, or 29.4%.
The report looked at the larger impact that technology would have on employment and talent over the coming two decades, estimating that China’s digital economy would make up 48% of the country’s total economy in 2035, accounting for US$16 trillion in spending. In 2015, those numbers were 13% and US$1.4 trillion respectively, and just over 100 million jobs.
“If Alibaba-generated employment has the same share of China’s digital economy in 2035 as in 2015, the platform will create 112 million jobs,” BCG said in its report. “If Alibaba’s emerging businesses, such as cloud computing and digital entertainment, play a strong future role as well, we can expect another 10 million jobs by 2035 — for a total of 122 million jobs.”
According to a 2016 study by Renmin University in Beijing, Alibaba’s e-commerce platform alone has already created 31 million jobs, BCG wrote. That figure includes not only the staff employed by Alibaba, which account for only a small fraction of the total, but also the jobs created by new online businesses using Alibaba’s platform as e-commerce rose in prominence over the past 17 years, and through ancillary businesses that grew up around it, such as logistics.
The report noted some specific areas where Alibaba had created jobs in addition to its regular focus on opportunities for consumption in China.
About 15,000 “Tao Factories” have sprung up, offering merchants selling on Taobao access to smaller-quantity manufacturing, as well as over 1,300 “Taobao Villages”, which are centers of e-commerce in the rural countryside. At the same time, the IT infrastructure provided by Alibaba Cloud has generated 1.2 million jobs at Chinese startups, BCG wrote.
A number of trends are expected to drive the growth of jobs in the digital economy, including seismic changes to the retail, finance and manufacturing industries, which are already being targeted as opportunities by Alibaba.
The first, which Alibaba calls “New Retail”, is the merger of online and offline commerce into a single omnichannel experience. It involves using the Internet, technology and data to better engage consumers.
In a letter to shareholders last year, Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said that helping traditional retailers upgrade to this new way of doing business was “the most important opportunity on the horizon.”