Platform workers come from a myriad of backgrounds; each having different lived realities, motivations for engaging in platform work, and self-defined purposes within the platform economy.
The platform economy plays a significant role in Singapore’s economy. According to the eConomy SEA 2022 report for Singapore, the gross market value of the platform economy is on track to hit around US$30bn (S$40.8bn) by 2025. Combined, food delivery and ride-hail/transport are set to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17%, providing valuable opportunities to many workers. Currently, there are an estimated 88,400 platform workers in Singapore.
Given the dynamic nature of the platform economy and accessibility of platform work, there is no one type of platform worker. According to a survey by Digital Platforms Industry Association (DPIA), a collaborative effort by Deliveroo, foodpanda and Grab in Singapore, platform workers have diverse aspirations and relationships with their platform work, based on which four different platform worker archetypes can be identified.
The archetypes, shared below, take into account how long platform workers anticipated they would stay in platform work, how much time they spend on platform work per week, the portion of their income obtained through platform work, and their current or previously held primary occupation.
The DPIA Survey (Partners) was conducted between 2-15 August 2023, garnering a total of 9,196 responses.
Opportunists often pursue platform work alongside their careers. Platform work does not play a big role in their lives, and many write that they are only in platform work for as long as earnings justify time spent. A vast majority (99.2%) of Opportunists do platform work on a less frequent basis, and only 8.4% earn most of their income from it. Additionally, 41.2% intend to continue platform work alongside their main forms of work for the foreseeable future, of which 25.3% indicated plans to stay on for more than three years.
There were also Opportunists who found it difficult to engage in traditional employment as a result of other commitments they were bound to, such as caregiving. No matter what their actual situation, those within this group found the material rewards of platform work intertwined with the flexibility of the work the most compelling part of the deal.
Switchovers have seen both regular work and platform work, and have decided that they prefer platform work. Whether they are retirees, on a sabbatical, or are in this for a longer period of time, platform work represents an alternative way of life that still offers enough to get by.
Switchovers particularly value the flexibility conferred by platform work, and were the most likely to report that they appreciated the working conditions of platform work as compared to their previous occupations. More than half (52.6%) of Switchovers reported plans to work in platform work beyond three years. Those in this group tended to engage in platform work more regularly and also earn most of their income through it.
Hard-nosed workers who have strong ambitions, many within this group wrote about their grand ambitions such as funding a great venture they are passionate about or gaining financial independence. A majority (96.7%) indicated that they engage more regularly with platform work, and 68.6% indicated that they earned most of their income from it.
While they are primarily in platform work for the income, they are more committed than other groups to platform work, both on a weekly basis and in the long term. For them, platform work represents a means of securing their dream.
Compared to the other archetypes, explorers are less committed to platform work - they put in as much as they need to give them the space and latitude to discover themselves. Nearly half of this group (49.2%) were either students, retirees or on a break. Most of them (95.8%) earn most of their income from platform work, while only 6.6% appear to be engaged in traditional working arrangements. Many wrote that they work independently in other contexts, are looking for a niche that they enjoy, or are in training/education to fit themselves into that niche.
In terms of some of the other key findings from the report, there was an emerging consciousness of platform workers finding self-purpose and fulfilment in their work. While their motivations for engaging in platform work remain varied, most (92.2%) platform workers were amenable to platform work, of which 61.8% surveyed indicated enjoying platform work in and of itself.
However, what they expressed concerns about included the following:
- Concerns about compulsory CPF contributions (60%) and how work injury compensation will take place.
- Platform workers also shared that the public attitudes towards them tend to be a toss-up between a lack of consideration, and concerns that, while well-intentioned, remove agency from platform workers by disregarding their choice to engage in platform work.
- When asked to elaborate, many of them noted difficult treatment from drunk and rowdy passengers, disrespect from family members, as well as inconsiderate consumers and merchants who make their working environment unnecessarily uncomfortable.
- All in all, approximately 25% of platform workers felt that they were not sufficiently respected in their line of work.
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