The gig economy is all about flexibility, but that is accompanied by uncertainty and a lot less labour protection in many cases. Without the clout to secure fairer terms, independent contractors do find themselves getting the short end of the stick.
The issue demands attention as there were about 200,100 freelancers among Singaporeans and permanent residents here in 2016, according to a Manpower Ministry survey. The overwhelming majority of them, or 80 per cent, were doing such work by choice, and the share of self-employed people has remained steady at 8 to 10 per cent of the total resident workforce over the last decade. However, these figures also mean that a fifth of them were participating in the gig economy not out of choice but out of necessity, perhaps because they could not find employment in the formal economy. The pool of grudging freelancers might grow with the advent of economic disruption. If that occurs on a large scale, it could shift many unwilling workers into the yet uncharted wilds of the gig economy. Now is the time to prepare for an eventuality that has moved from the realm of the possible to that of the probable.