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China’s Live Streaming Boom: Riches for Few, a Struggle for Most

According to an article written by a Chinese academic, China’s live streaming industry is booming, with 15.08 million people making live-streaming into their primary occupation. Around 98% of these streamers may struggle to make ends meet, however. Industry insiders note that many “overnight” internet celebrities are actually backed by professional teams.

China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security recently added “internet streamer” as an official occupation, aiming to reduce societal prejudice against live streamers. As China’s economy slows, more young people are joining the ranks of the live streamers. Over 60% of streamers are aged 18-29, with 95.2% earning less than ¥5,000 ($700) monthly. Only 0.4% make over ¥100,000 ($14,000), meaning that 2% of the streamers earn 80% of all the streamers’ income.

One example is Guo Youcai, who gained 10 million followers in 10 days by singing 90s hits at a train station. His success briefly turned his small town into a tourist hotspot. His fame was short-lived, however, due to accusations levied against him saying that he is a “social toxin.”

Experts suggest that such “overnight” successes are often orchestrated by behind-the-scenes teams who craft relatable stories that resonate with lower-class aspirations. While streaming can offer higher earnings than entry-level jobs, insiders are pessimistic about the industry’s future as China’s economy declines.

Source: Central News Agency (Taiwan), June 1, 2024