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Chinese tech workers left stranded as Shopee pulls job offers in 11th hour

Southeast Asia’s largest e-commerce company, Shopee, has canceled dozens of job openings in the past two weeks, sources said, a move that began shortly after the parent company Sea Ltd reported mounting losses and sharply slowed revenue growth.

Four people interviewed by Reuters who participated in a WeChat group of around 60 people that was set up to discuss the withdrawal of Shopee’s offers said their offers were withdrawn just days before work began.

A 27-year-old engineer who asked for only his first name Wang to be used said his call came a week after he arrived in Singapore after quitting a job in Shanghai with TikTok owner Bytedance.

“I thought it was a scam call…until I realized it was a general cancellation of Shopee deals,” said Wang, who had then paid an advance to rent a house.

Singapore-based Sea said it recently canceled some offers at Shopee, but declined to say how many.

“Due to adjustments to hiring plans for some technical teams, a number of positions at Shopee are no longer available. We are working closely to support those affected,” a company representative said.

The move follows other recent job cuts at Sea. The staff of Booyah!, a game live streaming app, which is part of Sea Garena’s gaming unit, have been informed that they will be discontinued and the app will no longer be updated, said separate sources told Reuters, adding that Sea’s development unit projects were also shutting down.

Earlier this year, media also said that Shopee had reduced its workforce in Southeast Asia, Mexico and Latin America. Shopee declined to comment on this information.

As recently as March, Sea said it would continue to invest in Shopee, which competes with Lazada, the Southeast Asian branch of Alibaba Group Holding, and that the unit’s growth remains at the center of his concerns.

But last month, Sea withdrew its e-commerce forecast for the year. Founder and CEO Forrest Li noted an increasingly uncertain market environment and stressed the need to prioritize profitability and efficiency. Sea posted a net loss of $931 million in the second quarter, more than double the loss in the same period a year earlier.

“Their tone has never been so pessimistic,” said Ke Yan, principal analyst at Singapore-based DZT Research, who added that Sea’s strategy of using Garena’s cash flow to offset cash burn of Shopee was not viable.

Sea’s handling of the layoffs was “ugly and embarrassing” and likely to damage its reputation, he said.

Sea saw its market value soar to more than $200 billion last October as its Garena unit gained popularity during the pandemic, but its shares have since fallen to just $27 billion.

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower said the relevant authorities are aware of the complaints about Shopee and is in contact with the company to find out more, but it also said that in such situations , the parties should find an amicable solution in good faith.

The four people interviewed by Reuters said that as compensation, Shopee has offered a month’s salary and in cases where people have flown in from overseas, it will reimburse the cost of airfare and airfare. temporary accommodation.

While the possibility of legal action has been discussed in the WeChat group, those left behind by Shopee are most concerned about finding new work.

“The cost of legal action is too high. I just want to move on and get a new job,” said one of four people interviewed by Reuters who declined to be identified.

For his part, Wang wishes to continue his job search in Singapore.

“The cost of returning to China is too huge, it’s very difficult to find a new job given the economic situation there,” he said.