Conservative estimates show that they are a total number of 200,000 freelancers in Singapore. This was the figure given by NTUC Assistant Secretary General Ang Hin Kee today (26 January 2016) in the debate on the President’s address.
And it doesn’t end here. The number will increase.
He gave 2 reasons why freelancers decided to forgo their jobs which provide a steady income.
- Wanting to break free from becoming too accustomed to a previously secured situation, and being oblivious to the need to adapt in view of rapid changes
- They enjoy the flexibility and naturally prefer not to be bounded by employer-employee arrangements, or any other limitations or boundaries that come with it.
With more and more turning to freelancing as a viable career option, Mr Ang said that the labour movement is “embarking on efforts to assist them.”
He highlights three key areas that society, buyers and the government can do to better support the freelance workforce.
- Mindset of society (viewing freelancing as a respectable vocation)
- Service buyers (value freelancers and treat them as partners)
- Government (design policies to include and support freelancers)
Mindset of Society
Ang said that many still think of freelancing as a “deviation from the norm” and equates it to unstable earnings.
He added that with economic restructuring, “companies and jobs could be impacted at short notice and retrenchment, unfortunately, is an unavoidable outcome for some.”
Just last week, the labour movement revealed retrenchment figures from last year and for the 1st quarter of 2016.
Workers will lose their jobs when they are unable to adapt and acquire new skills when companies go through major shifts or when product lines get obsolete.
“Society too needs to move away from the past notion of what defines a good job, and a stable income.”
So what happens when workers choose the freelance route? Mr Ang says “they learn how to build security, overcome uncertainty, make adjustments and collaborate with others.”
Even before the announcement of SkillsFuture, many freelancers have been refining old skills and acquiring news ones to stay ahead.
“On our part, we need to change how we perceive freelance work and embrace it as part of the changing employment landscape.”
Service Buyer Roles
“Companies can only tap on the best services if freelancers are allowed to grow well, earn decently and sustain their businesses.”
With the number of new jobs created on the decline, companies are also on the lookout for new ways to operate and reduce costs.
As such, “freelancers are a new source of talent pool.”
With no actual headcount to consider, tapping on freelancers allows them to keep costs low and yet have access to a worldwide pool of talent, and obtain services anytime and anywhere.
According to Mr Ang, companies are already making structural changes to how they assemble the resources needed to complete tasks in this new reality.
“As freelance work grows to become a popular career choice, it is timely to tailor policies to be more inclusive and benefit all worker groups.”
Mr Ang noted that Singapore has good schemes to help Singaporean working people. But he said “some schemes may need to be reviewed to consider the needs of freelancers.”
He said the HDB housing system and retirement planning has worked well for those who hold conventional jobs, but it is time to redesign such policies to include and benefit all worker groups. He called on the “Committee on the Future Economy” which is chaired by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat to consider looking into this area.
Every generation of workers have a different set of challenges and issues from the generation before and after. Freelancers as Mr Ang notes, like many new new working people, are seeking new earning options.
“Perhaps it is we who need the courage to adapt our mindset, policies and offer them stronger support.”