Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • As much as an economy is built by big businesses and visionary start-ups, it's also shaped

  • by the independent workers who contribute to it every day.

  • Here's my studio that's open for all, I actually used to busk here.

  • So when the coronavirus pandemic emerged earlier this year, sending markets into a tailspin

  • and disrupting most aspects of daily life, freelancers were hard hit.

  • We saw a drop in sales of about 80% or more.

  • That forced many of them to get creative to find new ways of working.

  • I'm in Singapore speaking to freelancers in some of the economy's hardest-hit sectors

  • to hear how they've done just that.

  • Freelancing during this period of time has actually taken on new meaning.

  • Independent work has been evolving fast in recent years.

  • The popularity of digital platforms and apps such as Fiverr, Uber and Grab has transformed

  • the dynamics of the workforce, with more people opting to do freelance work.

  • In 2019, independent workers accounted for nearly 9% of the workforce in Singapore,

  • or 211,000 residents.

  • That's an increase from around 200,000 in 2016.

  • Of them, more than 80% were doing freelance work as their primary job, or 7.5% of the workforce.

  • But the day of reckoning has arrived as the pandemic has cast a spotlight on the gig economy.

  • Job security has always been a concern in the gig economy.

  • The measures aimed at curbing the coronavirus have altered consumption and travel patterns,

  • fueling the volatility faced by independent workers.

  • The impact of the pandemic isn't evenly felt across the gig economy.

  • While demand for logistic and food delivery services surged during nationwide lockdowns,

  • others, especially those in the arts and hospitality space, saw business dry up almost entirely.

  • That was the case for singer-songwriter, Jill-Marie Thomas.

  • Just call me Jill, just call me Jill.

  • The former national talent search show winner quit her marketing job in 2018

  • to pursue performing full-time.

  • But when lockdowns crippled the country's flourishing entertainment scene,

  • her dreams were almost dashed.

  • I was really working very hard and getting a lot of gigs, finally getting the traction that I wanted,

  • and inquiries were coming in and stuff like that, and then boom.

  • Ilostmygig.sg, one of several sites launched internationally to support creative workers,

  • estimates more than $21 million in income and almost 9,000 gigs have been lost at the

  • end of August in Singapore as a result of Covid-19.

  • As social restrictions put an end to live public performances, governments have been

  • stepping in to help cushion the impact.

  • In March, the government unveiled a $6,500 pay-out for freelance workers, on top of various support packages.

  • Meanwhile, Singapore's National Arts Council partnered with streaming platform Bigo Live in May

  • to launch SGLivehouse, a series of virtual gigs to help buskers like Jill transition to online performances.

  • They sent equipment over.

  • We even had a tutorial on how to stream and what we can and cannot do as well, and what

  • we can do to improve our streams and stuff.

  • So it was really helpful, and yeah, from then on, I continued streaming.

  • This platform has always been here, this online platform, but with what we're going through,

  • it's just been an eye-opener for me to realize that actually, it's not only this but I

  • can also do this, and I can do both.

  • The event is one of several initiatives rolled out during the pandemic to keep independent

  • workers going.

  • For instance, when lockdowns threatened to uproot Singapore's iconic food markets,

  • known locally as hawker centers, the government worked with stall owners to find new online

  • revenue streams.

  • Ming Han Tan is a second-generation hawker seller who helps out at his parents' traditional

  • dried cuttlefish and biscuits stall at Chinatown Complex located in the heart of the city.

  • The only memories I have were tasting it as a child and falling in love with my dad's biscuit

  • and now making it myself.

  • The 34-year-old saw business drop as much as 80% due to the outbreak as people opted

  • to stay home, prompting him to look for new ways of working.

  • During the Covid, we had to look at new avenues such as doing delivery, advertising and marketing

  • on Facebook, social media platforms, and also using digital payments.

  • In June, the government launched Hawkers Go Digital, an initiative to help more independent stallholders

  • adopt technologies such as e-payments to keep apace with changing consumer demands.

  • As of August, nearly a third of 18,000 hawker stalls in Singapore, or 5,400 hawkers,

  • have adopted digital payments, a figure authorities hope to raise to 100% by June 2021.

  • There's a huge percentage of stalls that have adopted this SG Digital, SG Payment service

  • and platform and they have started using them and found the benefits towards themselves.

  • It is a win-win situation for both consumers and also for hawkers and stallholders.

  • While some hawkers are concerned about transaction fees for digital payments kicking in from 2023,

  • the scheme ties in with Singapore's wider ambitions to future-proof its traditional industries.

  • Other initiatives to bolster demand for hawkers include in-person and virtual food tours

  • to encourage more people to visit local markets.

  • Ming Han says he hopes such efforts will help breathe new life into the hawker trade.

  • We hope to bring more businesses back to this whole entire Chinatown Complex and to keep it alive

  • because it is a sunset industry, and we do not hope that, because of this Covid,

  • it continues to go down.

  • Although the shift to digital has been a major learning curve for many independent workers,

  • it has also been a boon for others who have made it their business to help with the transition.

  • After being retrenched from a managerial position in 2016, Sandra Tan forged a new career

  • as a digital marketer.

  • Today, the freelance consultant is advising businesses and individuals on how to set up

  • their online presence.

  • I would dare to say it's almost a basic skill now for everyone to be able to brand themselves online.

  • But this year, interest in her advisory services surged as nationwide lockdowns and mass retrenchments

  • prompted more people to look for ways to promote themselves and their businesses online.

  • When the pandemic came this year, there was a huge demand for that.

  • Everybody wanted to have a slice of knowledge to know what exactly is digital marketing?

  • What is social media? And how they can beef up their presence online.

  • That includes helping people upskill and diversify.

  • In this pandemic, we must remember that we need the three lives.

  • And these three lives are very important: Live engagement, live experience and, of course,

  • live entertainment.

  • Since March alone, Sandra has coached some 500 people.

  • In particular, her work has focused on the recently retrenched and clients in the hard-hit

  • retail and hospitality sectors, who she says have had to reinvent themselves almost entirely.

  • One of the key things, especially for the hotel industry to realize, was that apart from rooms,

  • they have to look at their ancillary services.

  • It could be an e-butler service or definitely online delivery.

  • And that took them with a little bit of a shock because we never hear of hotels delivering food

  • So they had to change their mindsets.

  • Even as the pandemic takes a toll on the global economy, it has acted as a catalyst for change

  • and created new opportunities for freelancers learning to adapt to the new norm.

  • That could spell good news for fast-adapting workers like Ming Han, who thinks the shifts

  • he has made in recent months will position him, and his industry, for the long-term.

  • I'm very hopeful for Singapore's hawker culture, and I'm part of it.

  • The whole culture has been around since the birth of Singapore and it will rise.

  • It is a different chapter as compared to previous.

  • We have to innovate and be adaptable to changes around, and with Covid it is a good stimulus

  • to all hawkers, especially.

  • And Jill?

  • Well, even as her industry undergoes fundamental changes, she won't be letting go of her dreams

  • anytime soon.

  • I definitely want to keep doing this online thing.

  • Slowly, slowly, I think, for me, I'm starting to get gigs and everything, and it is promising.

  • So I do hope that I do get more gigs and more enquiries and be able to work towards my other

  • dreams of owning my own place and stuff like that.

As much as an economy is built by big businesses and visionary start-ups, it's also shaped

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B2 singapore digital jill independent pandemic online

How gig workers are surviving the pandemic | CNBC Make It

  • 61 4
    Summer posted on 2020/09/07
Video vocabulary