Tripartite workgroup to be set up to study freelancers' concerns

Published Mon, Mar 6, 2017 · 09:50 PM


A TRIPARTITE workgroup will be formed to study the concerns of freelancers and how to protect their interests, as the gig economy looks set to expand.

Announcing this during the Committee of Supply debate on his ministry, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said on Monday that the workgroup, made up of representatives from the unions, employers and the government, will come out with "workable solutions for the well-being of the freelancing workforce" in Singapore's future economy.

The move to look into the concerns of freelancers comes after the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) made its first survey of the 200,000 or so freelancers in Singapore in August last year. The survey found that their top concern was whether they could find enough customers. They were also worried about the lack of income security if they were injured or went for training.

Some of the freelancers were concerned about timely and complete payment from clients. They were also bothered about savings for housing and retirement.

"While these concerns may not be new to freelancers, we are taking them seriously," Mr Lim said. "This is because the number of freelancers may grow in our future economy, in tandem with the growth of the platform economy."

Mr Lim said that not all workers in the platform or gig economy are freelancers - they can also be employees - and those who are freelancers still account for only a minority of the freelancing workforce.

The largest group of gig freelancers is private hire car drivers - mostly Uber and Grab drivers. There are about 10,500 of them. Among others are consultants, accountants, book-keepers, graphic designers, producers, editors and photographers.

Mr Lim said that the impression was there are many more gig freelancers than the 20,000 reported in the survey. He said that that's because there are both part-time and full-time freelancers. The number identified in the survey are full-time freelancers.

According to the survey, the share of people who freelance full-time has been fairly stable in the past 10 years. They accounted for eight to 10 per cent of all employed Singaporeans and permanent residents.

Most freelancers - 81 per cent - freelance by choice, while others stated that their current work was not their preferred job.

The vast majority of freelancers are in traditional occupations such as taxi drivers, real estate agents, business owners, insurance agents and private tutors. These jobs are done by over 10,000 workers each.

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