Health initiative for gig economy workers
The initiative aims to bring meaningful health programmes to 20,000 gig economy workers and other self-employed persons by 2024.
The Health Promotion Board (HPB) is scaling up a workplace health initiative it has piloted, to provide the gig economy workforce and other self-employed persons with access to health programmes that equip these workers with knowledge and skills to improve their physical and mental well-being.
The initiative aims to bring meaningful health programmes to 20,000 workers in this segment by 2024. This is part of the Tripartite Oversight Committee on Workplace Safety and Health’s efforts to extend health and safety programmes to priority sectors with higher proportions of mature workers aged 40 and above.
The number of self-employed persons has risen in the last few years. Slightly over 70 percent were aged 40 and above, and those in this age group are generally at a higher risk of developing chronic health conditions as they age.
Together with partners such as ComfortDelgro, foodpanda, Grab and NTUC’s Freelancers and Self-Employed Unit (U FSE), HPB offers workplace health programmes to gig workers and self-employed persons who are registered with these companies. They comprise largely taxi and private-hire vehicle drivers, delivery riders, private tutors, and sports and fitness instructors.
Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of Health, and co-chairperson of the Tripartite Oversight Committee, said: “Many self-employed persons, such as the gig workers, have irregular work patterns and do not have a fixed or centralised worksite, and have little or no access to company-based health programmes. We have therefore rallied unions, platform operators and companies to work with us to identify touch points where we can provide these workers with access to relevant health programmes that cater to their needs and help them to take charge of their well-being.”
Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Defence & Ministry of Manpower, and co-chairperson of the Tripartite Oversight Committee, said: “Self-employed persons contribute significantly to our economy. Many of these workers are at higher risk of chronic health conditions, and we want to do more to improve their health. As these workers take better charge of their health, they will be able to work for as long as they wish. We also urge more partners to come on board to support the well-being of these workers.”
The initiative has been developed to meet the health needs of the gig workforce and other self-employed persons and support them in staying healthy. It includes health screening for chronic diseases, and customised follow-up health coaching sessions with practical bite-sized tips on topics such as nutrition, physical activity and mental well-being. Physical activity sessions and mental well-being workshops are also offered under the initiative. Through these programmes, participants can acquire useful tips for their physical and mental well-being that they can practise in their own time, such as muscle conditioning and stretching exercises, or relaxation and stress-coping techniques to manage negative emotions when feeling distressed at work. The programmes are also conducted in a mix of virtual and on-site modalities to offer accessibility and flexibility. Participants are also onboarded to HPB’s programmes such as National Steps Challenge and Eat, Drink, Shop Healthy Challenge, to help sustain their healthier lifestyle.
Beyond encouraging participation among the workers, the unions and companies partnering HPB also provide their premises and digital platforms to facilitate the conduct of these programmes. For example, health screening and coaching sessions and mental well-being workshops are organised at Grab’s Service Centre for the convenience of Grab’s private-hire car drivers and food delivery riders when they visit the centre for work-related matters. Where on-site intervention is not feasible, other modes of engagement are adopted, such as tele-health coaching and the use of virtual platforms to conduct the programmes. The programmes are typically organised during lull periods of the day when these workers have fewer job assignments.
The health initiative started in 2019 and 13,000 workers have since participated in the programmes as of August 2022. About 70 percent of surveyed participants who attended the mental well-being talks and workshops also indicated having gained more knowledge and learnt new skills to better care for themselves and improve their well-being.
Riding on the encouraging outcomes from the pilot, HPB is expanding its touch points, with an aim to bring the workplace health programmes to 20,000 gig workers and other self-employed persons by 2024.
HPB will be deepening collaborations with existing partners and expanding its partnership network, including working with e-commerce companies who are widely connected to freelance online merchants, as well as working with NTUC and its affiliated trade associations representing different professions, to encourage participation among gig workers in different jobs. A collaboration with foodpanda to develop a microsite on its rider engagement portal is also underway, to complement existing health screening sessions, follow-up phone coaching and physical activity classes offered to foodpanda’s delivery riders. The microsite will enable the riders to access health information relevant to their work nature, at their own time and convenience.
The workers, such as delivery riders, can also look forward to learning about suitable ergonomic topics such as proper carrying techniques, which will be incorporated into the health coaching programme to help these workers learn how to better manage the physical requirements of their work and take charge of their health and well-being.