Parliament: Freelancers need more help with training needs: Labour MP

Government agencies can do more to help freelancers in terms of training courses and allowances, said labour MP Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio GRC).

Mr Ang, who is assistant director-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said one in 10 workers today is either a freelancer or self-employed, and these workers' training tends to be self-funded. They can also be deterred by the potential loss of income.

"They do not have easy access to courses and support. It can be extra daunting if they work in specialised fields where there are few local providers or experts," said Mr Ang in Parliament yesterday.

NTUC has customised SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace training for taxi drivers and sports coaches, and the Infocomm Media Development Authority offers training allowances to ease the loss of income when media freelancers attend approved training.

Other government agencies, too, can do more to introduce such support systems, said Mr Ang.

Budget 2019 also included initiatives such as the Global Ready Talent Programme, which young freelancers are keen to join.

Mr Ang said he hopes the authorities will consider tie-ups between freelancer associations and NTUC to send these young workers to key regional markets for overseas work experience.

 
 
 

He also suggested ways to help taxi and private-hire car drivers, such as making sure all operators ensure their drivers have insurance for prolonged medical leave.

"To this end, I also appreciate the efforts by the Ministry of Manpower and Land Transport Authority to engage these operators. It is actions such as these that will affirm their assertions that drivers' interests matter to them," he said.

He called for more support for taxi drivers as well, to help them manage higher operating costs amid a rise in diesel duty.

While the hike was accompanied by a $850 permanent reduction of the annual special tax on diesel taxis, Mr Ang said NTUC has asked operators to provide help beyond just passing on the rebate to drivers.

They can also help by passing on road tax savings and reducing pump prices under their charge. ComfortDelGro and other taxi operators have been selling discounted diesel to cabbies since the 1990s.

Mr Ang urged ministries, in their taxi licensing criteria, to look at whether the operators implement positive outcomes for workers.

"If operators are not keen on doing more, the Government can consider issuing fuel pump licensing rights to the unions," he added.

"We can then appoint the appropriate operator who will sell fuel at the right price to members and help them manage costs."

Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2019, with the headline 'Freelancers need more help with training needs: Labour MP'. Print Edition | Subscribe