Recent move to protect gig workers significant & fair

We’ve seen them before. In their green or pink shirts zipping around the neighbourhood with our sustenance in tow.

Always hustling — rain or shine.

Source: The Halal Food Blog

Indeed, MP for Jalan Besar Dr Wan Rizal said: “Be patient with your food delivery person. You don’t know what they have to go through to get your food to you.”

It’s safe to say that most Singaporeans are grateful for their service, especially during the darkest days of the pandemic.

And that’s why the recent announcement that gig workers such as delivery riders, private-hire care drivers and cabbies who use apps will get compensation for workplace injuries and Central Provident Fund (CPF) payments are significant and fair, especially the former.

Or dare we say, it’s been a long time coming.

It is a major move that will benefit more than 73,000 platform workers in Singapore, especially for deliver riders whose mode of transportation is usually a bicycle or a motorcycle.

At the earliest, these new policies will start in the latter half of 2024, providing gig workers standardised insurance protection for those who get hurt during working hours.

This after the Government accepted on Nov 23 all 12 recommendations made by the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers. Other than protection and CPF contributions, the recommendations also include improving housing and retirement adequacy.

In between self-employed and employee

The almost 60-page report states that platform workers have less control than the typical self-employed persons.

How so? They are dependent on the algorithms of the platforms and therefore cannot set their own price — unlike the self-employed. Throw in uncertainty over their income per hour worked and burden of bearing their own costs of operations, and you will get workers who run the risk of being burned out and face an uncertain future.

While it is true that they have more freedom (deciding when and where to work) as compared to employees, gig workers lack the basic protection that employees enjoy.

Gig workers have been standing on this no man’s land for years and insurance coverage for them currently is dependent on the goodwill of the platforms — hardly giving confidence.

Thankfully the proposed changes will cover medical expenses, income loss and lump sum compensation for permanent disability or death — the same three areas under Work Injury Compensation Act that the majority of employees in Singapore enjoy.

A fair and inclusive Singapore

A fair and inclusive society doesn’t come naturally — a lot of purposeful work has to be put in. For instance, the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers, comprising of labour MPs, workers and industry players, took a year to look into uplifting gig workers.

A microcosm of the Forward Singapore exercise, if you will.

A much larger exercise, Forward Singapore aims to review and refresh Singapore’s social compact in a big way, so that it can lead us into the next bound.

Look around and ponder, is Singapore a finished product? Hardly. A better description would be a work in progress because an even better Singapore for our people requires constant improvements and tweaks.

Because like our gig workers, the hustle never ends.

Cover photo credit: The Halal Food Blog