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Stronger support for gig workers today

  • The Straits Times (21 November 2019): “Holistic review of labour market needed”
  • The Straits Times (21 November 2019): “Set up a committee to help gig economy workers”
  • The Straits Times (24 November 2019): “Scrutinise firms to help gig workers”

Stronger support for gig workers today - The Straits Times, 10 December 2019

  1.  We thank forum letter writers for their suggestions to support gig workers.
  2. Fairness at work is fundamental to employees and self-employed persons (SEPs) alike. Even as work arrangements evolve, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) remains committed to safeguarding workers’ interests.
  3. Many gig workers are self-employed. However, depending on actual work arrangements, some are regular employees.
  4. Regular employees who believe they have been misclassified by their employers as SEPs can approach MOM for help. Over the last three years, we have helped about 300 workers misclassified as SEPs to recover their due entitlements, including overtime pay and Central Provident Fund contributions.
  5. In 2017, the Government set up the Tripartite Workgroup on SEPs to ensure they had better support. Based on extensive consultations with stakeholders, the Workgroup found that most SEPs did not expect their clients to provide employment benefits or treat them as regular employees. Instead, SEPs asked the Workgroup to focus on addressing their practical concerns. Their preference shaped the Workgroup’s recommendations, which are currently being implemented.
  6. For example, the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management extended its services to SEPs to help resolve payment-related disputes. We launched the Tripartite Standard on Contracting with SEPs (TS SEPs) to promote fair contracting norms. There are now insurance products to protect SEPs from loss of income during periods of prolonged illness.
  7. Last month, Parliament also approved the pilot of the “Contribute-as-you-Earn” scheme to help SEPs better save for their healthcare needs through smaller and more regular MediSave contributions whenever they earn income.
  8. Furthermore, lower-income SEPs qualify for Workfare Income Supplement (WIS). Each year, we provide WIS payouts to more than 40,000 SEPs. They can also tap on the Workfare Training Support scheme to apply for training allowance and upskill themselves.
  9. We call on service-buyers to do their part by providing SEPs with clear written contracts and access to prolonged medical leave insurance. We also encourage service-buyers to adopt the TS SEPs, to be more attractive among SEPs.
  10. The number of SEPs declined between 2017 and 2018 as the labour market improved, and their share of the resident workforce has remained stable at 8 – 10% over the past decade. For SEPs who prefer regular employment, job facilitation services are offered by Workforce Singapore and the Employment and Employability Institute.

Sim Feng-Ji
Divisional Director, Income Security Policy Division
Ministry of Manpower

Lim Tze Jiat
Director, Workplace Policy and Strategy Division
Ministry of Manpower


Holistic review of labour market needed
- The Straits Times, 21 November 2019

  1.  The Sunday Times’ report on the lives and motivations of those who work in our gig economy has given many readers food for thought (Gig work – not an easy ride, Nov 17). To read about fellow Singaporeans struggling to make ends meet despite working all hours of the day and holding multiple jobs is unsettling. A holistic review of our labour market is clearly needed. To start the debate, may I suggest the following? 
  2. First, consider the extension of Workfare supplements to these gig workers.
  3. Second, to pay for these Workfare supplements, extend the foreign worker levy to all foreign labour, including “foreign talent”. This would have the added benefit of making employers look harder for local talent before jumping to foreign hires to fill roles which are also sought by Singaporeans. This would also have the happy side effect of assuaging the plight of the growing numbers of displaced local PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians).
  4. Furthermore, it may encourage foreign talent who have the ability and commitment to Singapore to take up permanent residency and even citizenship so that they and their children can contribute to nation-building.

Josephine Chong Siew Nyuk


Set up a committee to help gig economy workers
- The Straits Times, 21 November 2019

  1.  The gig economy is a growing trend not just in Singapore but also in many developed countries, and it bodes well to start resolving current and potential challenges arising from the trend, and leveraging growing opportunities for the greater good (New poll highlights concern over gig workers’ prospects, Nov 17). The authorities should set up a committee comprising key stakeholders from the public, private and people sectors to help plan, lead, organise, control and innovate for the gig economy, and look at:
  • Helping gig economy workers develop advanced and deep skills to offer higher-value-added products and services, and find better ways to contribute to their lives, livelihoods and lifestyles.
  • Exploring ways to strengthen the social safety net to help them recover from failures and setbacks, and refresh themselves for the fast-evolving job, career and business landscapes.
  • Establishing a more effective system to help them contribute to Central Provident Fund savings in order to help them become better prepared for their housing, healthcare and retirement needs.
  • Developing a more gracious and inclusive culture to accept and embrace gig economy workers at every level of society.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)


Scrutinise firms to help gig workers
- The Straits Times, 23 November 2019

  1. The gig economy thrives because it does not follow fair business practices and provide basic terms and working conditions for all types of employees.
  2. This includes sick leave, annual leave, bonus, medical benefits, workman compensation insurance and Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution for retirement (Is upward mobility dead? Nov 21).
  3. Little wonder that some critics claim workers are being exploited and the gig economy is nothing more than a form of "sham-self-employment" where workers are employees in all but in name.
  4. The Sunday Times reported that there are 22,000 delivery riders for the three main players in the food delivery sector and 21,200 private-hire car drivers on online matching platforms who will face the prospect of long-term pains.
  5. We should not take passive approaches when looking to help these freelancers and should focus on why these gig companies in a sector worth multibillion dollars globally can't provide basic employee benefits.
  6. There are no valid reasons why food delivery companies cannot operate like normal commercial businesses, using company vehicles and charge accordingly.
  7. We should take proactive steps to prevent the gig economy from becoming a dead-end prospect for gig workers.
  8. Under the CPF Act, all employees, including part-time and casual workers, earning more than $50 a month are entitled to CPF contributions from their employers.
  9. Perhaps the Government needs to enforce necessary rules to force gig companies to comply with the Employment Act and CPF Act to protect vulnerable workers.
  10. Like courier services, the food delivery and private-hire car industries, once properly regulated, can offer freelancers fair wages and basic employee benefits, plus flexibility.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi