On 01 July 2021, TSMP Law Corporation head of employment and labour Ian Lim was quoted in an article published by DealStreetAsia on SE Asia’s gig economy published. He commented on the need for the authorities to look at placing proper safety nets for a growing number of gig workers in Singapore, due to the massive social cost when retirement comes for such workers.
A path to regulating the industry could be hazy, he said.
“There is a lack of clarity over the scale of Singapore’s gig industry”
“The authorities currently estimate that Singapore has more than 200,000 gig workers and freelancers, but getting to grips with the exact numbers can be challenging – does one include full-time employees who also do gig work on the side, for example?”
“Nevertheless, it is vital to do so. In an economy with a greying population like Singapore’s, the social cost of having little to no social safety nets in place for this ever-growing segment of the workforce will soon be felt,” he said.
He also commented that trying to follow other countries’ rulings is not as straightforward as it seems.
“It will be challenging to apply overseas court verdicts, like the recent UK Supreme Court verdict that Uber drivers are workers, to Singapore. That decision hinged on the fact that UK employment statutes have an intermediate class of ‘workers,’ who are neither employees nor independent contractors, and who have some but not all of the statutory benefits of employees (such as rights to paid annual leave).”
Singapore, meanwhile, has no such intermediate class of workers and introducing it would require the Parliament’s intervention. Until that happens, gig workers will continue to be considered non-employed independent contractors.
“One factor which might cause gig platforms to address worker discontent so as to prevent further strikes is ESG [Environmental, Social and Governance] concerns. Investors do not appear to be too concerned with the ESG ratings of gig platforms as yet, but with ESG growing in importance globally, this is likely to become an issue sooner rather than later,” he said.