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Written Answer by Mrs Josephine Teo Minister for Manpower to Parliamentary Question on protecting rights of self-employed persons



MP: Assoc Prof Walter Theseira

To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) what measures are taken to protect the rights of the self-employed such as hawkers and private-hire drivers who are often required to provide minimum hours of work or fulfil other conditions of service when signing contracts for their trade; (b) under what conditions will such contracts give rise to an employment relationship under the Employment Act; and (c) whether the Ministry will provide guidance to the self-employed on structuring self-employment trade contracts to provide for their welfare and to avoid effecting an employment relationship.


  1. In general, self-employed persons (SEPs) choose who to contract with and can negotiate the terms of their service contracts. To better support SEPs, we launched the Tripartite Standard on Contracting with Self-Employed Persons in March this year. Companies that adopt the Standard commit to discussing and agreeing on the terms of engagement with SEPs prior to the purchase of any services, and to set these terms out in writing. Over time, the Standard will help shape contracting norms and entrench best practices.
  2. SEPs may also seek help from the NTUC, their affiliates such as the National Private Hire Vehicles Association, or other SEP associations in their respective sectors. Such groups can help to advance the interests of SEPs with the major service buyers.
  3. MOM considers a range of factors when assessing whether an individual is an employee or self-employed. There is no single test to conclusively distinguish a contract of employment from a contract for services. The ability to decide on the hours of work is one of the factors considered. Other factors include whether the worker must use the equipment and tools provided, comply with prescribed procedures, follow a fixed schedule, and carry out the work without getting a replacement etc. Each case has to be evaluated holistically. Any SEP, including hawkers and private-hire car drivers, who thinks that he or she has been wrongly classified should approach MOM so that an appropriate determination can be made.
  4. Our surveys show that the proportion of primary SEPs1 in the resident workforce has remained stable at between 8-10%. The vast majority of them prefer self-employment over regular employment because of the increased range of work choices that it affords, greater flexibility and autonomy, as well as an alternative source of income. However, for SEPs who prefer to be an employee, the Ministry and our tripartite partners are working to improve their awareness of job matching schemes. Career centres run by Workforce Singapore and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute can also offer job facilitation services.


  1. SEPs in the survey findings cited refer only to SEPs who operate their own business without hiring any employees, more formally known as "own account workers".