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The FoodPanda Issue: The Plight Of ‘Gig Economy’ Workers Must Be Given Attention

The decision by Foodpanda to maintain its new wage mechanism despite the government’s call for them to reinstate the previous scheme is unfortunate.

As noted in media reports, significant segments of its riders have expressed concern and unhappiness over the new scheme. Members of the public have also come out in support of them.

It is hence regrettable that a solution for this issue agreeable to all parties could not be found.

It is important—and possible—for workers in the so-called “gig economy” to be paid living wages while such firms to continue to thrive.

Tech companies in Malaysia should hence not be impervious to the needs of its riders—or public opinion.

I hope that all parties concerned will continue to communicate frankly and openly on this matter to ensure that fairness prevails.

On a wider scale, this incident reveals that Malaysia needs to do more to prepare itself for the rise of the gig-economy.

We must be equally concerned with ensuring that talent at all levels in this sector are properly compensated as with how to stimulate and incentivise its development.

The US state of California has recently passed landmark legislation to require businesses—including ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft—to hire drivers as employees rather than independent contractors in most circumstances.

This will mean that such workers will receive labour protections and benefits like unemployment insurance, overtime, minimum wages and the right to unionise, among other things.

It is perhaps time for Malaysia to consider passing similar legislation; although the views of both labour and employers should of course be considered.

Indeed, I understand that the Human Resources Ministry is considering amending laws to include who can be defined as an employee—this can certainly be looked into.

Other possible measures that could be adopted include the introduction of an hourly minimum wage, which would be of great help to gig workers, provided they meet certain standards of productivity.

All parties should realise that keeping wages low does nobody any good in the long-run. Malaysia have suppressed wages for far too long. The 2018 Bank Negara found that Malaysian workers pay still lag behind other benchmark economies, even after taking into account productivity.

Rather, what is needed are wise policies as well as cooperation on all sides to ensure that working Malaysians are both properly paid and productive. This is something the government must take into account moving forward.

Meanwhile, efforts must be continued to ensure a just resolution to the Foodpanda rider issue.