A Day in the Life of a Delivery Service Worker in Japan Amid COVID-19

Delivery workers are also considered frontliners during this pandemic.

With the Coronavirus crisis worsening since the beginning of the year and the state of emergency declaration last April, many restaurants have closed and the city has become almost deserted. However, delivery service workers carrying large backpacks are still seen running around frequently.

At a time when businesses are asked to stop normal operations, restaurants find ways to somehow cover the decline in sales by offering take out services. But since consumers refrain from going out, they heavily rely on delivery services to both meet their needs. This brings us to the question, how does the staff of these delivery services work.

A delivery worker for
Uber Eats, one of the most well-known delivery services in the country, agreed to an interview by the editorial department in Osaka City.

(The interview was conducted via video call.)

The famous delivery backpack. They come in different shapes (there are green ones too), and this is presumably the earliest version.

Necessary skills as a delivery worker

Why did you start being a delivery worker for Uber Eats?

An acquaintance started doing it and I asked about the job out of curiosity. And I thought, maybe that’s something I could do too. I started January last year and have been going on for almost a year and a half now.

What do you exactly need to become a delivery worker?

All you need is a smartphone and an identification card like a driver’s license. For your temporary registration as a delivery worker (called “delivery partner” in Uber Eats), you have to send all the necessary information like your name and your photo on the official website and install the smartphone application for riders. Then go to the Uber Eats office located in various cities to confirm your identity face-to-face (*Note) and receive your backpack.

During this time, a backpack deposit of a few thousand Yen is required (on-the-spot payment is not necessary, it will be deducted little by little from your compensation once you start working) but you’ll get it back when you return the backpack once you quit working. So the initial cost is technically zero.

For the delivery vehicle, you have to provide your own bicycle or motorbike. But if you don’t have one, you can use the bike sharing service affiliated with Uber at a low cost.

*Note: In order to prevent the spread of Coronavirus infection, special measures are taken to complete registration by contactless procedure using a telephone, etc. instead of the face-to-face method.


For the safety of delivery workers, Uber provides them with masks, and infection prevention measures are being implemented.

After that, how do you actually start delivering?

Launch the app during the time when you can deliver. The app will let you receive notifications from nearby stores with orders for delivery. Follow the directions in the app and go to the store, pick up the food, and deliver it to the customer. Then you repeat the cycle. It’s not that difficult, so you get used to it after a few tries.

Waiting for dispatch on the app. It connects with the GPS on your smartphone and your location is displayed on the map.

When there is a dispatch, the display switches to the directions to the store.

How much compensation do you receive in one transaction?

For example, the average delivery distance is around 1 to 2 kilometers. And for that it’s usually
¥350 to ¥400 in Osaka, plus fixed additional fees depending on the time and area.

In my case, I deliver after I finish my day job, which is around dinner so that’s more or less
¥500 per transaction. Each delivery takes roughly 15 to 20 minutes so if I make 2 deliveries in an hour, I earn ¥1,000. And if I make 3, I earn ¥1,500. But of course, the waiting time doesn’t count so this isn’t always the case.

Also, there are bonuses called “quests” like “if you deliver __ items in __ days, you will receive an additional
¥__” so you can earn by combining them well.

If you accept a dispatch in the orange area, you will receive a fixed additional fee of ¥150 per delivery.

 “Quest” example.

Major chain restaurants are easy to deliver because of their systematic procedure.

What are some techniques to increase your income?

The most important thing is to not draw a “miss.” I won’t drop names, but sometimes you go to the restaurant for pick up and they make you wait 20 to 30 minutes until the order is made. Other times, you receive an order from a wide area and you have to run ridiculously long distances.

Of course, as you gain experience, you start creating a mental blacklist of these stores and you learn to reject deliveries from them (delivery workers are not required to accept every transaction, they can reject them as well). As a delivery worker, transactions from major chain restaurants are the easiest. Everything is scripted in a good way so it is unlikely to have to wait for a long time and the more affiliated stores they have nearby, the lower the chances for a long distance delivery.


The delivery address, however, is not displayed until we pick up the order so it feels like gambling sometimes.

By the way, where in Osaka City do you mainly work?

I can’t say the specifics...but I usually standby at a station near my house. There are several major chain restaurants nearby, so I can get around efficiently. But not to the point of becoming a “
jizo” (guardian deity of children usually enshrined by the side of the road).

What is “jizo”?

In stores where orders come frequently regardless of the time of day, like a certain hamburger shop everyone knows, some delivery workers standby outside the store waiting for a transaction. We call them
jizoamong us in the industry.

You can search them on Twitter if you want more details (laughs).

“Jizo” delivery workers waiting for an order (Photo is for visual representation only. Some parts have been edited.)

A special demand for delivery due to the Coronavirus?

It is said that delivery is on demand right now due to the Coronavirus, but what is the actual situation?

Due to the call for self-isolation, the number of restaurants with delivery services is certainly increasing, but the number of delivery workers is rapidly increasing, too. Normal business operations are being held for a lot of industries and many are being forced to close. People who lost their jobs are now flooding in the delivery industry. Restaurant owners who lost their businesses becoming delivery workers are not uncommon. The number of deliveries distributed to each worker hasn’t increased much since the Corona crisis, I think it has decreased, even.

Also, for people like me who deliver only in the evenings, the impact of the state of emergency declaration is huge. There are stores that continue to operate only for takeout and delivery after 8 p.m., but not all, so our options are reduced as well. During those days, I just go home early.

Hmm. It seems like you’re doing this for a long time despite the difficulties.

It’s not a bad system since you can work at your own pace and adjust depending on your circumstances. If you can manage these advantages, I think it’s worth a try. It’s also a good way to exercise.

Lastly, for those riding bicycles, if you want to work longer, it’s better if you think of a way so you don’t have to put on that huge backpack. It’s actually heavy even when empty, so especially during the warm seasons, carrying them on your back for a long time is tiring and will make you dehydrated.


What? How do you carry your delivery items if you don’t carry your backpack?

Like this.

It is a logical solution, but it looks a little bit forced.

Oh. I see…but, it doesn’t look that good, does it.

Well, good looks alone doesn’t bring in the money (laughs).

To all the delivery workers, let’s enjoy doing deliveries while following traffic etiquette!

After the interview: I want to give support to the delivery workers.

Did this article help you understand delivery workers a little? It seems that many people are using delivery services nowadays due to the Coronavirus. I would like to end this article by wishing the delivery workers all over the country good luck on their work and to do their best without compromising their health.

Provided by Japan Walker™, Walkerplus™, and Tokyo Walker™ (8 May 2020)

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