In recent years, there has been an increase in number of workers participating in the sharing economy with many being freelancers or self-employed. In Singapore, this increase is particularly prominent in the private car hire services sector.

In a parliamentary session yesterday, MP Desmond Choo brought the topic of the sharing economy up, raising concerns around a deflationary impact on wages in sectors with a high concentration of such workers, as well as how the government can help these workers be financially adequate in their retirement

Minister for Manpower, Lim Swee Say responded, saying that even though the share of these primary freelancers has remained relatively stable, at between 8% to 10% over the past 10 years, their numbers could be growing in specific sectors such as private hire car services.

According to Minister Lim, in June 2016, there were about 180,000 primary freelancers who operated their own business or trade as their main work without employing any paid worker, accounting for around 8% of working residents.

"The emergence of “sharing economy” platforms may also enable more people to take up freelancing as a secondary source of income," he noted.

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In light of that, in order to gain a deeper understanding of freelancer profiles - including whether they take up freelancing as a primary or secondary source of income - as well as the sectors and occupations they are in, the government has initiated a new annual survey, which started in September last year.

"With the information from the survey, we will monitor more closely the workforce trends of the 'sharing economy' and look into the issues that freelancers may face, including retirement adequacy," Minister Lim said.

Private hire car drivers now have to obtain a vocational licence

On a similar topic, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has announced that it will be introducing regulations for private hire car (PHC) drivers and vehicles.

As announced at MOT’s Committee of Supply debate in 2016, the regulations will be introduced to better protect commuters’ interests.

The new regulations will require:

  • All private hire car drivers to obtain a vocational licence
  • All private hire car drivers to display a tamper-evident decal on vehicles used to provide PHC services.

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To support the new regulations, the amendments to the Road Traffic Act (RTA) will empower LTA to introduce and enforce rules prescribing the duties and responsibilities of PHC booking service operators.

"These include ensuring that their drivers have the required vocational licences and that the PHCs used are adequately insured. PHC booking service operators can be fined up to $10,000 for every offence," the press release stated.

In addition to the fine, the amendments will give LTA the power to issue general suspension orders barring all PHC drivers from driving for a PHC booking service operator that has had three or more instances of their drivers committing major offences within a rolling 12-month period.

During the suspension period, it will be an offence for any driver to drive for the PHC booking service operator. Drivers doing so will be penalised with a fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding three months or both for the first offence, and a fine not exceeding $2,000 or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both for subsequent offences. Their vocational licence may also be suspended or revoked.

Photo / 123RF