Gig economy spurs hope amidst weakening job market in Singapore

Maybank Kim Eng analysts said the growing gig economy is helping Singapore alleviate the impact of a weakening job market.

Singapore job market
Job seekers in a Singapore job fair. Reuters

Singaporeans, particularly those who recently graduated or are in the millennial generation, are turning into part time and freelance jobs on the backdrop of the growing gig economy.

A report by Maybank Kim Eng analysts Chua Hak Bin and Lee Ju Ye said the shift to gig economy is alleviating the negative impact of the otherwise dismal job market in Singapore.

The two noted that an increasing proportion of Singapore's labour force is taking part in this thriving gig economy amidst the sluggish growth weighing on hiring sentiments.

Straits Times reported that there were about 200,000 freelancers in Singapore last year. Labour minister Lim Swee Say said this is about 9 percent of the overall resident employment in the country.

Around 167,000 of these are doing freelance work as their main job. Included in this primary freelancers segment are insurance agents, private hire car drivers, hawkers or stall-holders and private tutors.

On the other hand, the secondary freelancers, who make up 1.5 percent of resident employment, include students, housewives, and retirees who take up side jobs for extra income.

The Maybank analysts pointed out that the increasing number of private car hire registrants is one of the testaments to the growing traction gig economy is gaining.

In fact, there are 50,600 who applied for the Private Hire Car Driver's Vocational License (PDVL) as of July 2017, following the imposition of the license requirement. This is an almost fivefold increase from 10,500 private hire car drivers from August 2015 to July 2016.

The gig economy seems to be appealing to millennials and recently-graduated professionals. The two cited that roughly 47 percent of Institute of Technical Education (ITE), 35 percent of the Polytechnic, and 10 percent of university graduates opted for part-time and freelance jobs in 2016.

More so, the analysts said gig economy provides retrenched or unemployed workers with the opportunity to the gig economy to look at achieved income whilst looking for a more permanent job.

"Singapore's gig workforce is likely to continue rising in the near term, as more start-ups venture into new business and companies try to manage costs," the two analysts said.