There are two things a gig worker anywhere needs:

  1. Financial security—some form of long-term savings
  2. Immediate cash—enough money to sustain in the short term

But do the twain meet? In Singapore’s case, at least, these two requirements are looking a bit contradictory.

Let’s back up and see why it’s trying to meet both criteria, though. The island nation has seen remarkable growth in the number of freelancers and gig employees, of late. According to the Ministry of Manpower, this number grew from 223,500 in 2017 to 228,200 in 2020—when Singapore’s proportion of self-employed workers who are not employers reached a decade-high of 9.7% 9.7% NUS Rise of the gig economy may not mean something’s wrong with the traditional economy Read more

With the popularity of ride-hailing and food delivery and the rise of apps like Grab, Gojek, and foodpanda, many have been drawn to join platform work. It comes with some perceived benefits such as flexibility, autonomy, and not having to report to a boss. But gig work is anything but hunky-dory. In fact, it was Covid and the jobs it cut— over 113,500 over 113,500 The Straits Times Covid-19 drove unprecedented drop of 196,400 in S'pore employment; services hardest-hit: MTI report Read more during the first circuit breaker circuit breaker Circuit breaker —that lent heavily to people rushing towards gig work in the first place.

Now, with many pursuing gig work full-time, there are concerns about their social protection and sustained livelihood.

Singapore’s gig workers, considered self-employed, are not accorded the benefits given to traditional employees such as paid leave, medical leave, or the Central Provident Fund (CPF). Though platforms such as Grab and foodpanda have started sponsoring skills training courses and providing insurance—after concerns about gig workers’ livelihoods—this is at the employer’s discretion.

Earlier this year, the government decided to do something about it.

It set up the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers to get companies to start making mandatory contributions to CPF accounts of gig workers—such as private hire vehicle drivers and food delivery personnel. This was based on a government survey survey TODAY Govt considering mandatory CPF contributions from platform companies for gig workers, setting up union for them Read more  which indicated that 55% of platform workers felt that mandatory CPF contributions to their Special (for retirement needs) and Ordinary (for retirement and housing) accounts would hold them in good stead in the future.

AUTHOR

Sheila Chiang

Based in Singapore, Sheila began her career working in high-growth startups, including a venture-backed online fashion retailer. Fascinated by the startup culture and the rise of unicorns and IPOs in Southeast Asia, she seeks to tell compelling stories on their journeys from idea to exit. She was previously at DealStreetAsia reporting on startups and venture capital.

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