PMD: Distinguish clearly between device and delivery
Safety (or the lack of it) is at the centre of the PMD ban. If you mix this up with the delivery jobs, you will get nowhere in policy and you’ll be very confused in your thinking.
A lot has been said about the ban, but let’s keep that separate for clarity of thinking. Let’s just go straight to the issue at hand: jobs.
Here are three pieces of fact:
1. The prevalence of PMDs in delivery came about only about a year ago. Before that, the vehicle of choice were either motorbikes, bicycles or on foot (foot delivery gradually phased out due to its unpopularity). So it isn’t as if the riders have been working in this industry for so long that they are entrapped in it and cannot shift industries.
2. Grab has developed archetypes to identify their riders. The ones that earn the most are called the “hustlers” (or something to that effect). They’re the ones who know how to strategise, deliver in the rain (pays more) and chances are, they use motorbikes. Hustlers can earn up to $5k a month, tax free but do not contribute to their own CPF.
3. Many (exact figure not known) of these delivery riders are middle aged and hail from sunset industries. From a small income, they suddenly see a windfall of many thousands of dollars a month.
Now, it is very important to note that the industry itself, is not banned and remains unregulated. The riders themselves can carry on doing their work for as long as there is demand. The only thing that is different, is their work horse: the mobility device.
With the ban, the government has an excellent opportunity at hand. People are coming in droves to want to speak with community leaders! If you have done any amount of work with the grassroots, you would know that it is such a difficult task getting people to be interested and to come and attend dialogues. Now, people are willing and even demanding to speak with you!
The government ought to make use of this opportunity to send the most important message of our times: that job security is not what it used to be. It depends on your skills, on your willingness to adapt and your ability to learn.
It is good that the government has set aside $7m for this particular breed of workers, but you might notice that the mechanisms are already in place for a long time and has been working to help persons who have been retrenched. (But please, please remember that the delivery riders -are not retrenched- they are FREE to CONTINUE, just please use a different device)
uTap: NTUC members already have a Union Training Assistance Programme for all members; there is opportunity for this to be extended to riders who wish to acquire new licences or skills to do other forms of work.
The above are but just a few examples, the support network between the Government and the NTUC is vast.
But what is MOST, MOST important is that Singapore must have a variety of work for people to move around in. Even gig workers who wish to transit. And right now, our lively economy enables us to do this.
Want to drive a Grab car? Can.
Sell insurance? Can.
Sell property? Can.
Be a hawker? Sure.
Be a freelance courier? If you want.
Do a wide range of freelance work such as design, video production, photography, coding, writing etc etc? Demand is there for these.
The only requirement is that you have the skills and ability to take on these jobs.
Do you think you can do all this if you were in a country that didn’t have the economic system for all this? Even if you had the skills? You would probably be reduced to peddling made-in-china souvenirs on the beach.
So let’s end this with these 3 points:
The food delivery industry is not banned, merely the device. So figure a way around it.
If you think you don’t want to do this line of work anymore, the agencies and even NTUC is there to help. It just needs you to reach out to them.
The Government has an opportunity to engage and do more for the workers using existing mechanisms, there may not even be a need to spend $7m to help riders get bikes. They just need to extend existing infrastructure to accommodate affected workers.