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How Much Did Singapore Gig Economy Platform Workers Really Earn In 2021 (Based On Government Statistics)

Just $1,500

Whether it is food delivery, ridesharing or courier services, there are multiple apps and platforms for it. Grab, Gojek, foodpanda, Deliveroo and Lalamove are all examples of apps that we as consumers are familiar with. Yet behind each food delivery, ride or courier, there is a worker who is not an employee of the company but work for the platform: a platform worker whose income is directly tied to the number of gigs s/he carries out in a day.

In 2021, around 3 in 10 self-employed persons were platform workers, of which around 30,600 were private hire car drivers, 26,300 were taxi drivers and 16,700 were delivery workers.

To find out how much these gig economy platform workers, we take a look at Ministry of Manpower’s Labour Force in Singapore 2021 report.

Platform Workers Earned A Median Income Of $1,500 In 2021

According to the MOM report, the median gross monthly income for platform workers was $1,500. Private hire car drivers earned $2,000 and taxi drivers earned $1,200 in 2021, an increase from $1,700 and $1,000 in 2020. Delivery workers earned $1,800 in 2021, a decline from $1,900 in 2020.

Source: MOM

Read Also: Are You Earning As Much As Your Peers: How Much Is The Average Salary In Singapore For Every Age Group?

80.6% Chose To Do Platform Work By Choice

While a median income of $1,500 may seem low, most (80.6%) platform workers engaged in this work by choice.

A study by Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) also found that 76% of respondents indicated the flexibility of working hours as a reason for choosing to work as a private hire car driver.

Source: IPS

The gig nature of platform work allows these workers to choose their working hours, without needing to seek permission from supervisors. This makes platform work possible for workers who have family needs to attend to, health issues, and other irregular demands on their time. For many lower skilled workers, this level of flexibility and autonomy may not be possible from other available work.

Platform Workers Are Likely To Be Aged 50 And Older And Have Non-Tertiary Educational Qualifications

In general, more than half of platform workers are aged 50 and above. Almost 80% of them have non-tertiary educational qualifications.

Source: MOM

Additionally, 92% of platform workers resided in a house owned by themselves or a family member. About 50% live in a home that is fully paid for, with HDB 4-room flats being the most common housing type.

When put in this perspective of a platform worker in their pre-retirement years with no outstanding housing demands, the median income of $1,500 does appear to be adequate and even comfortable. In contrast, a young platform worker looking to buy their first home would have a hard time getting by on the same median income.

Read Also: Disposable Income VS Discretionary Income: How Much Money Do You Really Have If You Earn The Median Salary In Singapore?

Lack And Uncertainty Of Finding Sufficient Work Are The Top Challenges Of Platform Work

More than half (58%) of regular platform workers indicated challenges with platform work. The gig economy nature of platform work meant that platform workers have little foresight as to when and where their next gig would come in. This can create stress about lack of sufficient work (when they don’t receive enough gigs) and the uncertainty of finding sufficient work (when they cannot reliably forecast how much work and income they can receive).

Source: MOM

Additionally, platform workers also indicate healthcare-related and retirement-related concerns. Platform workers are only required to top up their MediSave Account as self-employed persons. As platform workers currently do not receive CPF contributions, they do not have the same safety net as employees with CPF contributions.

Read Also: Pros and Cons of Topping Up Your CPF MediSave Account

Beneficial In The Short-Term But Possibly Detrimental In The Long-Term

As explored in the IPS study, the flexibility of platform work is a double-edged sword. The gig economy nature of the work means that workers can choose the work they accept. However, it comes at a cost as declining gigs, cancellations or even taking off days can affect the algorithm matching which in turn affects the number of gigs assigned and the earnings and incentives.

Platform workers who choose to maximise their incomes through platform work frequently work long hours. Between 15% to 20% of full-timers surveyed said that their overall quality of life has improved since becoming a PHC driver.

Source: IPS

The grind for higher incomes and incentives can also hamper their ability to find work outside of driving. Platform work experience is often deemed as not valuable for resume building and the longer one engages in platform work, the less they feel equipped to switch out from platform work. Though platform work may be a good temporary option to earn income, prolonged platform work can limit job mobility.

More Support May Be Forthcoming

As highlighted in Senior Minister of State for Manpower’s speech, the government has convened an Advisory Committee on Platform Workers to review the needs of platform workers. The initial findings of the committee recognised the importance of retirement and housing adequacy for these workers and is also exploring how the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA) framework can be extended to these workers.

Regardless, it is important to recognise that the pool of platform workers is diverse. The nature of the gig economy benefits certain groups of workers at certain points in their careers/ lives, especially for those who value and integrate work flexibility into their daily lives. However, it can hamper job mobility and be detrimental for long term retirement adequacy, especially for younger workers who enter into this gig economy early.

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