TL;DR – Most Gig and Self-employed workers are placed in a vulnerable position as they tend to be reliant on platform partners for work. These platform partners also have the upper hand of deciding the price for their service.
At the Budget debate yesterday (23 February), Labour member of Parliament (LMP) Yeo Wan Ling highlighted that there is an increase in the number of gig and self-employed workers (SEPs). With the shift in the workforce, new measures will be required to provide support for this growing group of workers.
How Gig and SEPs rely heavily on platform companies for jobs
Gig and Self-employed workers depend on platform partners to hook them up for gigs and the work they are required to do requires little skills or have no requirement of any technical skill.
In some cases, SEPs will have to bear additional expenses. For instance, private hire drivers will be affected by fluctuating fuel prices, unstable geopolitical landscape and inconsistent trip prices devised by the platforms’ algorithm which is responsive to consumer demand.
Time is Money
To SEPs, carving time for training means sacrificing income that they could have earned – a huge opportunity cost.
However, this presents a chicken and egg scenario. If SEPs are not able to take time off for training, they will not be able to upskill in hopes for a better career opportunity. Hence, they find themselves caught in a bind.
At the Budget Debate, Ms Yeo said, “The SEPs in Singapore are capable of generating incredible value for our economy and society if only we would hand them the tools they need to loosen their Gordian Knots.”
To help them break free from the knots, she proposed the following ways that can be adopted to help SEPs:
In the area of upskilling
- Expand training allowances for self-sponsored trainees to include SEPs. This will cover the loss of income on days they set aside for upskilling.
- Support SEPs upskilling in critical skills like digitalization and digitization. This will benefit SEPs working in sectors (like Media and Transportation) that have been disrupted by technology.
- Develop skills frameworks for SEPs in crafts and trades-based professions such as photographers, videographers, plumbers, and mechanics. Incorporating apprenticeship programmes into such training frameworks with Government support would also benefit future talents.
In the area of levelling the playing field to mitigate business costs
- GST rebates for SEPs who are not GST-registered to buffer the increase in costs. Specifically for taxi and private hire drivers, we should consider co-sharing of GST by SEPs with their operators and platforms.
- 60% Fixed Expense Deduction Ratio to better reflect the thinning margins experienced by drivers. Increasing the relief limit for business expenses and allow insurance such as prolonged medical leave to be categorized under business expenses will also allow SEPs to tide through tough times and have better insurance coverage to protect themselves.
- Government procurement to take the lead in recognizing SEPs who train under the above-mentioned craft and trade skills frameworks when awarding Government contracts.
She concluded that by supporting them to upskill, providing skill frameworks for their professions and alleviating their costs of business, these workers will be better able to contribute and uplift our economy.
Progressive Wages has uplifted the salary of lower-wage workers and is expected to benefit 94% of lower-wage workers