Paul Magnett’s press release on e-commerce is great when both Ecolo and PTB remain silent on the subject. It is a signal that the lines are starting to move. Yet the reluctance is strong, as evidenced by the reactions it elicits, on the part of the right organizations and employers. But they are not the only people. The government headed by the socialist Elio Di Rupo clearly supports e-commerce. For example, you would prefer the e-commerce giant Alibaba to come to Liege. It also decided to allocate a check to help Walloon SMEs go digital and expand their activities online. This is also e-commerce.
In our eyes, this departure from the socialist president would make sense if, after the short sentence to set himself up against the MR, he allowed the debate to be brought up properly in the coming months, and if it marked a turning point in radical politics. Favorable to the giants of the sector (Alibaba, Google …) that his party has constantly called for.
Is e-commerce synonymous with social decline?
Paul Magnette’s exit was particularly prompted by the negotiations over night work currently under way at the federal level. In fact, just as there has been with other sectors (think auto assembly lines), today there is pressure from the employers’ benches to lower the “cost” of night work, including in e-commerce which is a big consumer. Paul Magnette forgets to point out that PS has recently endorsed a similar measure of working until midnight (modestly qualifying as evening work) in particular in favor of the same sector. The issue of the strenuous nature of certain hours is not limited to major e-commerce platforms, but also forget about the Ministerial Decree of March 23, 2020 allowing food stores to open until 10pm. In general, it’s time to ask about the types of jobs that e-commerce generates. What percentage of jobs are in handling and express delivery? What ratio of night and evening work does this relate to? What is the impact of this type of work on the health of workers? To find out what percentage of these jobs will disappear with bots?
Is e-commerce killing the local economy and small businesses?
According to the most recent Business Barometer from Digital Agency, dating back to 2020, 53% of Walloon retail businesses had a website and 22% sold online. Thus, e-commerce is not only about multinational companies. When we buy a theater ticket online or a train ticket via our smartphone, it is also an e-commerce. However, the focus of the sector is very real. Today, 80% of e-commerce is in the hands of large and well-known brands (Amazon, Bol, Zalando …) that are established abroad and are often very reluctant to pay their taxes with enthusiasm. In France, a 2019 study showed that for 1 job created at Amazon France Logistique, 2.2 were lost in local stores. What about us? For example, is it possible to estimate how many domestic jobs are at risk when foreign products transported by air are facilitated at Liège airport? Is local e-commerce (for the majority) possible? Is it desirable?
What is the environmental impact of e-commerce?
Whether by making it easier to import products made in Asia (notably by air to allow faster delivery), or by developing home delivery of (overpackaged) small packages via truck, e-commerce is having an impact on the carbon footprint of the things we buy. . But is it e-commerce, or are the practices of major players (including classic wholesale retailers) promoting these environmentally harmful practices (by shifting production to reduce costs and increase margins, and then transporting it long distances)? And in general, aren’t both of them encouraging the trend towards overconsumption at a time when the planet’s resources are increasingly limited?
Can we fight e-commerce without rethinking how we live in the region?
Charleroi’s mayor, Paul Magnet, suggests giving priority to local businesses. Very well. But is this model transportable everywhere, especially in the countryside and suburbs? Is it e-commerce that is destroying local commerce, or is it the disappearance of local fabric (especially outside cities) that has allowed it to flourish? Shouldn’t the return of local shops also be based on another way of urbanizing our region, and in particular on a real city policy that puts an end to the current urban sprawl?
The fruit of economic globalization and the logic of free trade, driven by the computer revolution, fueled by the pandemic, e-commerce has a huge impact on our economy, and therefore our lives. Today it is overwhelmingly trusted By multinational corporations that are carrying out an ecological and social reactionary social project. Therefore, it is necessary to question the nature and effects of this development. But to do so seriously, today we urgently need a better understanding of the consequences of this advent. It is the true meaning of an eco-social project, a credo that Paul Magnet intends to take for himself, refusing to allow the law of the market to impose itself, and enrolling our economic choices (e-commerce promotion or convergence is one of them) in an environmentally sustainable and socially desirable social enterprise. Ask the IWEPS and/or Planning Office to produce a master report answering the questions asked here. Let us organize in the various parliaments, by opening them to the citizens, a real debate on this subject of society.