Gig workers concerned about lower earnings and discrimination while consumers fear higher prices; both back new measures to improve welfare

SINGAPORE — Getting a lower take-home pay and being discriminated by employers when they choose to take up Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions are some of the repercussions that gig workers worry they may face, even though they generally support the move to improve their welfare.

This was in response to new measures to come that serve to protect such workers in terms of insurance coverage, injury compensation and savings for retirement, housing and medical needs, among others.

At the same time, consumers who use the services of these gig workers through food delivery and ride-hailing platforms, for example, were concerned that these moves may spell higher prices for them. Most who were interviewed by TODAY said that these price increases should be borne primarily by the platforms.

The Government on Wednesday (Nov 23) accepted all 12 recommendations by an advisory committee on platform workers, which was set up by the Ministry of Manpower last year to propose ways to strengthen protections for these workers here.

Under the new measures, gig workers would be entitled to workplace injury compensation just like regular employees and the right to collectively bargain for wages and benefits.

For gig workers aged 30 and below, they would also have to make compulsory contributions to CPFthe national savings scheme, while those above 30 are given the choice to opt in for the contribution.

WHAT GIG WORKERS SAY

Of 10 gig workers who spoke to TODAY, only one did not agree with the new measures.

Ms Siti Mariyam Binte Hassan, 29, does not support the compulsory CPF contribution, saying that this would lead to her having lower purchasing power.

She added that one of the reasons she started working as a food delivery rider was that she did not need to contribute a certain percentage of her salary to CPF, allowing her to take home a higher salary.

However, others such as 23-year-old part-time delivery rider Muhammad Nur Danish Ismail Hedzir welcomed the mandatory CPF contribution because this would allow him to save up for the future should he need money for housing or medical bills.

“I have been working as a delivery rider for more than three years and… my CPF savings aren’t that much. I am not that concerned about having less cash in hand as I know that at the end of the day, it will benefit me,” Mr Nur Danish said.

Employers or platform companies will have to contribute to these workers’ CPF accounts as part of the measures and CPF ruling.

On other matters related to their income, Mr Wilson Low Poh Ming, 37, who has been working as a food delivery rider for the past three years, said: “If the platform is going to contribute (the employer’s portion to CPF), that will be great provided that they don’t cut out base fare to offset the 3.5 per cent annual increase (for the employer’s share to CPF).”

The contributions to CPF, when the new measures take effect at a date yet to be determined, will be increased in phases over a period of five years — with an average of 2.5 percent annual increments for platform workers and 3.5 percent for companies.

Older workers such as 51-year-old driver Ban Kum Cheong were also afraid that opting in for CPF contributions would cause them to face discrimination from their companies.

“Let’s say there’s a job, and (the platform) chooses between a driver who opted in (to CPF contributions) and one who did not, it may give the job to the driver who didn’t opt ​​in because as employer, it will pay less to CPF.”

Apart from that, Mr. Ban was glad to hear about the new sector-wide work injury compensation and income-loss insurance, because it would be a way of protecting them.

“We are workers, but we don’t get (workforce insurance) by the platform, yet we have to follow their guidelines. So this is to protect us, and insure us during injury,” he added.

WHAT CONSUMERS SAY

Some consumers who use food delivery and ride-hailing services shared similar concerns with some of the gig workers, in that they were not looking forward to platform companies passing on higher costs to them.

Gig workers are afraid that the higher prices for food deliveries or private-hire car rides may drive down demand and affect their earnings.

Part-time delivery rider Sang Shi Jie, 20, said: “If the delivery fee rises, customers will think twice before ordering food on the platform and this may mean fewer jobs for riders.”

For consumers, the higher costs at a time of rising inflation that has already pushed up food prices recently may just be another added burden.

Ms Cheryl Lee, a 27-year-old copywriter, said: “I think (any price increase) has to be within reason and within people’s means of living.

“A small increase of S$1 to S$2 may be all right, but if it consistently increases and goes beyond what people can afford, what then?”

Ms Lee, who orders food delivery once or twice a week, said that she would stop and find a more “cost-effective alternative” if costs do get passed on to consumers and the price increase goes too far especially given the uncertain global economic conditions .

Similarly, 19-year-old student Qistina Farisha Safrani Binte Mohamed Faizal, who orders food deliveries at least four times a week, said that platform companies should absorb more of the increased costs rather than pass it down to consumers via higher fees.

“There is already a marked-up price for food when using Grab plus another S$3 to S$4 for delivery fees, which goes to the company.

“So I feel like increasing the price of the delivery fee isn’t really going to help the delivery driver because they don’t get everything,” she said.

Others added that they were willing to pay slightly higher prices if it helped improve the welfare of workers.

Student Mohammad Mudhafar Subque Mustapa, 19, who spends about S$3 to S$4 on delivery fees for his orders, said: “I’m okay with paying up to S$5 (for delivery fees) if it means that these workers will have a more convenient situation when they have to deal with injuries.”

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