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 earlier in Parliament this year.
However, freelancing carries with it a unique set of problems and challenges. Getting payment and enforcing their legal rights stand out strongly amongst the many issues.
Setting up a body of protection is not as easy for freelancers though. If you’re in traditional employment (or a Contract of Service), you have rights enforced by statutory protection, for example the Employment Act and various other legal remedies that help a employer-employee relationship.
Freelancers, don’t have it so easy.
Patrick Tay, an MP from the Labour Movement explained to the media: “One of the main prohibitions is that the Trade Unions Act does not allow the trade union to represent freelance workers, but I think we should take a closer look at that.
“Across every part of the world, unions do not represent freelance workers because of this prohibition. However, there are instances, (such as) … in the United States, where they are testing out new pieces of legislation, and discussing them to see whether they can better protect the interests of freelance professionals and workers.”
However, the NTUC is seeking ways to explore and to understand how the movement can band freelancers together and then work in partnership with stakeholders to advocate and make sure that their rights and privileges, and interests and welfare are looked after.
One key thing is working with the industry, and working with the associations of freelancers. Even going as far as partnering with freelancers would go a long way in looking after their interests and rights. “For example, like lobbying or being a voice for them in various platforms, to make sure that their interests and welfare are looked after.” said Tay.
Freelancers can also take action of their own.
“For certain trades, the freelance professionals could actually get together to form an association and … also have some form of accreditation in terms of the quality of their service, the quality of their training and their professionalism”, explained Tay.
“So that’s one way. If we can gather sufficient numbers, and in certain trades, be able to accommodate this accreditation, it’ll be good to raise the standards and also provide some reassurance to buyers of their services that they’re getting professionals at a fair deal.”
I believe the industry will be eager to see the rights of freelancers becoming stronger and legally protected.