ByteDance Singapore office not affected as firm lays off hundreds after China’s tutoring crackdown

ByteDance had ventured into education in search of its next big hit after TikTok.
ByteDance had ventured into education in search of its next big hit after TikTok.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The Singapore office of TikTok owner ByteDance will not be affected by the tech giant’s round of layoffs in China over the tutoring crackdown there, The Straits Times understands. 

Bloomberg reported on Thursday (Aug 5) that ByteDance, which owns online education businesses alongside its social media platform TikTok, has laid off hundreds of workers.

This is due to ByteDance shutting down “a significant part” of its online education businesses to comply with Beijing’s new regulatory regime for the after-school tutoring industry, the news agency said. 

Staff working on education technology products such as Guagua Long, Qingbei and GoGoKid were told that they will be laid off with compensation, a source told Bloomberg. 

At least hundreds of employees were affected, while others will switch to different products under the ByteDance umbrella, the source said. 

But the adjustments are specific to the China market, and Singapore is not affected, ST understands. 

Bytedance signed an agreement last year to move to a bigger Singapore office at One Raffles Quay, Bloomberg reported in October, as part of its expansion plans here. 

It was going to lease three floors measuring over 60,000 sq ft, according to the report.

This expansion would help the firm to anchor itself in Singapore, a place that is trying to attract more investments and multinational corporations to its shore even amid the pandemic. 

ByteDance also embarked on a hiring spree in Singapore, The Financial Times reported in March this year, citing a job analytics database that revealed the company had posted 338 job openings in Singapore over the previous six months.

The Beijing-based company, controlled by billionaire Zhang Yiming, was hiring for engineering and senior management positions in Singapore for TikTok. 

It was also looking to fill positions for its enterprise software business Lark and other products.

The hiring spree in Singapore would also support ByteDance’s push into South-east Asia, the report added. 

ST understands that ByteDance will now scale back its business lines in the Chinese education consumer market. 

China’s government enacted curbs last month on the after-school tutoring industry, worth some US$100 billion (S$135 billion). These rules ban private firms teaching school subjects to children from earning profits and raising capital. 

Companies are also not allowed to hire foreigners outside China as teachers or teach school curriculum to children under six years old. 

These curbs directly affect ByteDance’s GoGoKid and Guagua Long platforms, Bloomberg said, even as they sparked a sell-off that wiped out more than US$1 trillion of value from Chinese equities.

But ST understands that as a company that has various business lines, ByteDance will be less impacted, even as the new regulations and policies impact the entire sector of after-school tutoring services. 

Bloomberg reported that senior vice-president Chen Lin had previously said the company’s education arm will invest without considering profitability in the next three years. 

At one point, the unit had more than 10,000 employees, including tutors.