Dispatch rider, 23, plies the roads with a prayer and a dream

Dispatch rider Fitri Ismail, 23, wants to save $150,000 by the time he reaches his 40s so that he can start his own F&B and delivery business with friends. He worries about getting injured in an accident while on the road.
Dispatch rider Fitri Ismail, 23, wants to save $150,000 by the time he reaches his 40s so that he can start his own F&B and delivery business with friends. He worries about getting injured in an accident while on the road.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Friends of Mr Fitri Ismail used to tease him for being a delivery boy.

"Last time, they liked to disturb me. They'd say, 'See, I work in a cafe and I (am) already a manager but you are still doing deliveries'," said the 23-year-old.

But Mr Ismail is having the last laugh - for now, at least.

For the past year, he has been pulling in $3,000 to $4,000 a month as a Deliveroo delivery rider, more than what some of his peers earn in their office or F&B jobs.

"It's funny to see those friends who used to poke fun at me now joining as dispatch riders too," said Mr Ismail, who used to earn $1,200 as a pizza deliveryman after Central Provident Fund (CPF) deductions of about $400.

  • MONTHLY FINANCES

    SALARY

    $3,000 to $4,000

    EXPENSES

    1. $1,000 to parents for household and medical expenses

    2. $500to $1,000 for personal use (food, bills, petrol and bike servicing)

    SAVINGS

    $1,800

    CPF CONTRIBUTION

    $200

Besides the good take-home pay, Mr Ismail enjoys his job's flexible hours, which allow him to time his days off with his father's medical appointments.

But the gig economy job comes with the downsides that many have warned about.

As a freelancer, Mr Ismail does not get the benefits that an employee has. There are no employer's CPF contribution, medical benefits, paid annual leave or work injury compensation.

"My mum worries about me not having funds in my CPF so I give her about $200 every month to top up my account and earn the interest there," said Mr Ismail.

He has a total of $4,000 in his CPF account now - which he knows will not go far for needs such as buying a flat or medical costs.

So, he tries to make sure he squirrels away $1,800 a month as savings. Currently, he has about $10,000 in the bank.

He wants to put aside $150,000 by the time he hits his 40s. Then, he hopes, he can quit being a dispatch rider and start his own F&B and delivery business with friends.

"I only have a certificate from ITE so it's hard to find other jobs. I tried applying to be a gym instructor, front-line police officer and technician but was rejected," he said.

Mr Ismail is one of 200,000 freelancers in Singapore, a group of workers that is expected to grow as the gig economy gains traction.

While it has meant better take- home pay for some such as Mr Ismail, the Government and economists alike worry about their long- term financial health.

Another concern is the fact that the job is physically demanding and can be risky.

Mr Ismail plies the roads from 11.15am to 11.15pm, four or five days a week. He pushes himself to make two to three deliveries an hour in the Orchard area where he is based. That brings his hourly wage to an average of about $21. On top of his $8.50 an hour pay, he earns $4 on weekdays and $6 on weekends for every delivery.

He has made up to 40 deliveries a day - a record among Deliveroo riders, according to Mr Ismail.

His own biggest worry is getting injured in an accident on the road. So far, he has only had one minor run-in with a speeding car, which dented the back of his red and black Honda Wave motorbike.

He knows that having a body fit enough for work is his only financial bulwark for now. Every day, as he straddles his vehicle and revs up its engine, he spends an extra five seconds mumbling a silent prayer.

"God, please protect me on the roads and let me live another day."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 23, 2017, with the headline 'He plies the roads with a prayer and a dream'. Print Edition | Subscribe