Safety and protection of platform workers rank high on PAP Govt’s list

27/01/2023

Food delivery drivers—once part and parcel of modern conveniences—were elevated to the status of essential workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

After all, many of them had put their health at risk delivering food to our doorsteps, nourishing the souls and stomachs of a nation gripped by fear over a then-unknown virus. 

For the PAP Government, the hard work, sacrifices and difficulties experienced by platform workers have not gone unnoticed.

Earlier this week (25 Jan), Nee Soon GRC MPs Mr K. Shanmugam, Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and Ms Carrie Tan met with food delivery riders for a dialogue session. 

“We discussed challenges they faced,” shared MP Shanmugam in his Facebook post

Protecting gig economy workers

When platform companies first opened the floodgates for thousands to embark on gig work, it was an inviting and inclusive work environment that embraced all kinds of workers due to its relatively low barrier to entry. 

Almost anyone can sign up as a food delivery worker or private-hire car driver to supplement their income. 

Platform work soon flourished as a lucrative career option as platform companies dangled attractive incentives to attract riders and drivers, especially so when a story about a delivery rider taking home $8,500 in a month went viral. 

The truth about platform work, however, is a tad more subdued. 

According to an IPS survey last year, food delivery drivers earn a median income of $1,925, with a significant number working more than 44 hours weekly. 

They also have limited protection against workplace injury and no option of benefiting from the Central Provident Fund (CPF) system, the keystone of our social security system.

And without regular contributions to one’s CPF accounts, getting a HDB flat to settle down and accruing enough savings for retirement is a guaranteed impossibility for most. 

According to the Ministry of Manpower’s annual Labour Force in Singapore report, approximately 73,000 platform workers in Singapore are labouring under such conditions, unable to protect their present and save up for their future.

How can we talk about building an equitable society if we do not help platform workers who play an important role in our economy? 

Thankfully, the vulnerabilities of platform workers are not lost on the PAP Government.

An Advisory Committee on Platform Workers was set up in 2021 to look into strengthening protections for those who engage in gig work. 

One year later, the government accepted all 12 recommendations made by the committee. 

Ensuring platform workers have adequate protection

The new policies, to be implemented no later than 2024, will include a slew of financial protection measures which are especially important for platform workers. 

As platform workers work through rain or shine, grappling with fatigue and long working hours, many encounter accidents at work

The statistics are worrying. 

In a July 2022 Parliamentary sitting, it was revealed that five food delivery riders died on the job within a span of 18 months. 

The recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers are a positive step forward, because they require platform companies to provide their platform workers with work injury compensation on the same level as other employees, as well as work injury compensation insurance.

Such measures will go a long way in ensuring that platform workers have peace of mind, knowing that they are protected in the course of their work.

Caring for the safety of platform workers also means providing adequate infrastructure to support their work. 

In the case of delivery riders, this takes the form of proper cycling paths and routes — which was precisely what our Nee Soon MPs talked about during their dialogue with delivery riders. 

According to MP Shanmugam, there are plans to expand the cycling path network in Yishun. 

A Government who cares

These changes are the results of a Government that listened and will continue to listen to the needs of platform workers. 

After all, to build a fairer and more inclusive society, all professions, including platform workers, need to be treated fairly and be afforded the necessary protections. 

This way, we can all thrive together as one.

All images via K. Shanmugam/Facebook