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Singapore platform workers flag concerns of possible discrimination over CPF proposals

The Government has accepted 12 recommendations by an Advisory Committee on Platform Workers, to increase job protections.

Singapore platform workers flag concerns of possible discrimination over CPF proposals

Grab delivery cyclists ride past each other in Singapore on Apr 20, 2020. (File photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Platform workers asked how they could be shielded from potential penalties and extra costs in a dialogue session on Friday (Feb 3) about job protection recommendations that the Government accepted last year.

The recommendations include adjusting Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rates for younger platform workers and platform companies, to be aligned with that of employees and employers. Older platform workers can choose whether they want to opt in.

Workers expressed concern over the possibility of platform companies discriminating against those who opt in to a CPF regime, or increasing commission charges to cover the cost of their CPF contribution for workers.

The dialogue was organised by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Dr Koh Poh Koon said that in theory, it was possible that platform companies would favour workers who do not opt in to the CPF scheme, since the company could then save on the 17 per cent contribution.

But the strategy would not make sense in the long run because CPF contributions will be mandatory for workers below the age of 30 at the time that the recommendations are implemented, he said.

That means that the number of workers not part of the CPF regime will be very small, and companies are already struggling to find enough workers.

Additionally, among workers who make deliveries on bicycles, the younger ones are likely to be stronger and more efficient, said Dr Koh, who is also an adviser to the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers.

“My sense (is that) they will find it very difficult to discriminate,” he said, adding that it would be made clear in fair employment practice guidelines that “any form of discrimination even in this kind of setting will not be seen to be a right thing to do".

When asked how to ensure companies pass costs to consumers and not workers, Dr Koh said the Government was seriously discussing this - but also that “the true nature of the market is that any cost that the company takes on, eventually they will end up charging the customers more".

“They will have to pass it through,” he said.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said Singaporeans bearing more costs would be “in recognition of the good work” that platform workers are doing.

“At the same time, from the platform companies’ perspective, they also understand that moving forward in terms of supporting the sustainability of this business, all of you have to be taken care of,” he said at the dialogue.


The platform workers also sought clarity on how their CPF contributions would be calculated, such as whether the percentage taken would be after costs are deducted.

Dr Koh confirmed that expenses would not be included when calculating CPF contributions. For example, private-hire drivers currently have a fixed expense ratio of 60 per cent, which is used for tax declaration.

Based on that ratio, if a driver earns S$100 in a day, the CPF contribution will be 20 per cent and 17 per cent of S$40.

One worker pointed out that with rising costs, the 60-40 expense ratio for drivers might not be representative.

Who should pay for better protection for our gig workers?

Dr Koh said the ratio was meant to cover fluctuations within a year, but that there might be exceptions, and drivers can appeal with the relevant documents if needed.

Regarding clarity on how a worker’s earnings get deducted for CPF, Dr Koh said the Government would work with platform companies to explore greater transparency on cash flow and CPF deductions.

“So that to you, you can see where the money trail is right? Then that, to some extent, can help answer the question that was asked (on) how do you know they are not shifting the cost to you,” he said.


Asked why self-employed people such as insurance and property agents were not being asked to align their CPF contributions to that of employees, Dr Koh said it was because platform workers were the most vulnerable.

“Ideally they should all be paying, but when we started this stream of work we’re looking at ... who are the ones who need the help the most,” he said.

Insurance agents and property agents generally earn more and can save money for their own CPF, buy insurance or invest for their retirement.

“But for all of you who are doing this, you are subjected to a lot more challenges,” said Dr Koh. “In time to come, if the system works better, actually, there's no reason why they (won't) want to contribute for themselves too.

“So we will see how it goes, but I think for now we’re just really taking the first step to take care of those who can't really have a way to take care of themselves."

On Friday, Dr Tan also announced a Platform Workers Work Injury Compensation Implementation Network, which will develop policies for compensating workers who sustain injuries at work.

Insurers, platform companies and workers as well as tripartite partners will be part of the network, to provide different perspectives on areas including the reporting of injuries and processing of claims, Dr Tan said.

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Source: CNA/an(jo)


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