Compensation for workplace injuries and Central Provident Fund (CPF) payments are on the cards for cabbies, private-hire car drivers and freelance delivery workers who use apps. This move, which will benefit more than 73,000 platform workers here, will see companies that hire them having to provide standardised insurance protection for those who get hurt during working hours. CPF payments will be made compulsory for those below 30 years of age. The new policies will kick in in the latter half of 2024, at the earliest, to allow gig companies and their workers sufficient time to adjust to these major changes. Fundamentally, the extension of basic protection to platform workers will provide them with a buffer as they navigate their way through rapidly changing market conditions. These expose gig workers to a degree of vulnerability not faced by their counterparts in the non-platform economy.
According to a report in 2021, informal workers dominate South-east Asia’s labour market in both urban and rural areas. More than half of those in the workforce in most South-east Asian countries earn their living in the informal sector, with the proportion exceeding 80 per cent in Cambodia and Myanmar. The exceptions are Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia, where formal workers dominate, the report adds. However, even in Singapore, platform workers currently fall in a grey area between full-fledged employees and self-employed people, since they can decide on the number of hours they work but cannot set their own prices or build their own client pool. In that context, the tighter insurance and CPF measures are meant to ensure that platform workers receive basic protection that corresponds to the level of control which companies employing them have over their work. This is only fair.