SINGAPORE - Government agencies can do more to help freelancers in terms of training courses and allowances, as this group of workers often do not have easy access to such support measures, said labour MP Ang Hin Kee.
One in 10 workers today are either freelancers or self-employed, he noted, and training for them tends to be self-funded. The potential loss of income that ensues can be a deterrence as well, added the assistant director-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).
"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, MP of Ang Mo Kio GRC, on the first day of the Budget debate on Tuesday (Feb 26).
While the NTUC has customised SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace training for taxi drivers and sports coaches, and the Infocomm Media Development Authority offers training allowances to alleviate loss of income when media freelancers attend approved training, other government agencies can do more to introduce support systems.
For example, Budget 2019 included initiatives such as the Global Ready Talent Programme, which young freelancers are keen to be part of. Mr Ang said he hopes the authorities can consider partnering freelancer associations and the NTUC to send these young workers to key regional markets for overseas work experience.
Mr Ang also suggested ways to help taxi and private-hire car drivers, such as by having all operators ensure their drivers are covered by prolonged medical leave insurance.
"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 with a rise in diesel duty.
“We have called upon taxi operators to help beyond just passing on this diesel rebate to drivers,” he said, adding that they can do more by passing on road tax savings and cutting pump prices, which are under them.
He urged ministries to consider whether taxi licence operators implement positive outcomes for workers in their licensing criteria.
"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."