THE GIG ECONOMY IN SINGAPORE
The lure of working in the gig economy has been growing in popularity since start-ups such as Uber, Grab, GoJek, FoodPanda, and Deliveroo entered the scene. Individuals offering their time and efforts are widely known as Freelancers or Gig Workers. In Singapore, they are referred to as “own-account workers”.
The pandemic has affected many businesses, with falling revenues and increased unemployment due to strained finances. The Singapore Government had set aside billions to stimulate the job sector with various schemes to encourage employment during the downturn, but are still many unfortunate individuals that faced an uncertain future. During this time, the gig economy provided lifelines keeping many who chose this path afloat. Those who chose this new way of working would find pockets of time to make up the pay cut they have in their full-time jobs. Others build their income by working multiple gigs at once. The flexible nature of these gig jobs means that choosing work hours that fit their schedule is key.
While the gig economy work may seem to have broken into a norm for a growing number of people, it has been somewhat popular in Singapore for some years now, even before the pandemic. About 10 per cent of all employed residents (about 211,000 residents) are freelancers or own-account workers in 2019. That is an increase of 11,000 from 200,000 in 2016, a sign that this industry is steadily growing.
THE DRAW OF THE GIG ECONOMY
Since a long time ago, it is not uncommon to see people turning to gig work while waiting for full-time employment or use it as an alternative source of income while engaging in other responsibilities, such as school or business ventures. You probably know someone who has tutored school children, delivered for food service platforms, or provided ride-hailing service, and maybe even working part-time jobs at restaurants or events.
Gig work provides the freedom that many demands and traditional employment cannot provide. To the younger generations, the main advantage of gig work is financial and personal freedom. Regardless of it being the main or supplementary income, gig work can help current students or those who have freshly graduated to pay for their expenses. An increasing number of millennials are also rethinking the need for a 9-5 job to pay their bills; freelancing or gigs provides income while also allowing them to pursue their career or entrepreneurial aspirations. It’s probably also an added perk that gig workers don’t necessarily have human bosses. In some cases, they are working for the platform.
WELFARE OF THE GIG WORKERS
The change we are seeing in the labour force also brings along some uncertainty and insecurity, such as payment and safety of the gig workers. This could be addressed through digital features such as user rating, secured payment mechanism and screening processes. The trust concerns of users can be mitigated and, in so doing, help to reduce the barriers of entry to the gig economy.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE GIG ECONOMY
Task-based work has already gathered a lot of interest as the desire for instant, app-based services increases. Perhaps gig work will become the norm in the economy. While it is not suited for everyone, the new way to work is very suitable for individuals who love the flexibility to monetize their time by pursuing their multiple passions across different industries. If you are a ride-hailing driver who aspires to be a barista and wedding singer, then my question would be – why not be all of them? All it takes is to be able to learn and do different things at different times.