Gig workers. Platform workers. Freelancers. Self-employed persons. They are a fragmented group with different motivations and varied aspirations. As a result, they don’t necessarily believe they have much in common. However, they share similar experiences.
They all face economic instability, but they appreciate the autonomy and flexibility that many types of independent work often bring.
Whether online platform workers choose gig work out of choice or necessity, the harsh reality is that workers in these arrangements lose the kind of stability and safety nest that conventional employment provides, such as basic rights under the Employment Act.
A recently published study by the Institute of Public Policy revealed platform workers are financially stressed. Many were worried about retirement adequacy and may not be prepared financially for a medical emergency. This lack of savings has led to irregular or often, none at all, voluntary CPF contributions making future aspirations such as homeownership hard to achieve.
On top of that, without regular contributions to the CPF, many of these workers may be ineligible for wage support under the enhanced Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme which requires self-employed persons to tame MediSave contributions. The WIS payments are only received after the total income earned in the year is declared either to CPF or IRAS.
Often, platform workers lose out on opportunities to upskill or upgrade skills for personal development.
Unlike employees in a conventional working arrangement, platform workers cannot tap on government grants and programs like the Lean Enterprise Development Scheme.
In the story of this food delivery rider, his hesitance to seek courses for skills development and upgrading stemmed from having to skip work to attend classes.
Like he said, “No work, no money.”
In her debate speech on Budget Statement 2022, Labour MP Yeo Wan Ling emphasized the importance of partnering with companies to protect the interests and welfare of freelance and self-employed workers.
She commended how platforms like Grab and Deliveroo have put some measures like basic accident insurance coverage to protect their riders.
She also highlighted other ongoing efforts by the Labour Movement, such as career conversion classes held by NTUC Learning Hub, to protect the long-term livelihoods of drivers who intend to move out of the industry.
“Even as these efforts are encouraging, such measures do not sufficiently protect workers, particularly those who rely on the gig economy as their primary source of income,” said Ms. Yeo.
She also urged the tripartite partnership to “strive to support a healthy diversity of career options and sustainable, dignified livelihoods brought about by the gig economy.”
Editing is my work.