8 Myths About Gig Workers in Malaysia | Homage

8 Myths About Gig Workers in Malaysia | Homage

How much do you know about working as a gig worker in Malaysia? Are they tax exempted? In this article, let's find out the common myths surrounding the gig economy.

by Calvyn Ee

Who are Gig Workers?

“Gig workers” is simply another term to refer to freelancers, those who work on their own time by fulfilling temporary and part-time positions.

Gig workers enjoy a highly flexible and independent position, not tied to any company’s work policies, but this comes at the cost of lacking long-term job security and employee benefits such as health coverage.

Most times, gig workers advertise their services on various online platforms, such as JobStreet and even social media sites like Facebook. Anyone can freely contract their services, either for a single job requirement or for a contracted period of time. Gig workers will be paid once they complete the given task and will usually provide an invoice for said purpose of receiving their salary.

food-delivery

The Covid-19 pandemic also brought about a surge in p-hailing (“food, drinks, and parcel delivery using motorcycles”) gig workers, mainly delivery riders for services like Grab and Foodpanda, where many claim as being able to secure a stable monthly salary from regular food deliveries to customers. Even after Malaysia relaxed various movement restrictions to move into the endemic phase, many still continue to work as p-hailing riders, while others made it a source of side income.

The flexibility the gig economy offers has seen many people move away from their 9-to-5 jobs and become freelancers themselves. Statistics have found that 26 percent of the Malaysian workforce – estimated at four million people – are now part of the gig economy. By some estimates, a third of the world’s population is participating in the gig economy, and that number is likely to rise – slowly but surely.

The gig economy is a vast field and, besides e-hailing drivers and p-hailing riders, includes jobs such as:

  • Graphics designers
  • Wedding/event photographers
  • Content writers/analysts
  • Social media managers
  • Freelance accountants
  • Programmers
  • Video editors
  • Care providers

The Gig Economy of Malaysia

A man doing freelancing job in a cafe

The gig economy saw a huge boom during the Covid-19 pandemic where unemployed people found it difficult to find a “traditional” desk job. With most people stuck working from home owing to the many Movement Control Orders (MCO) imposed by the government, the need for p-hailing services – and other kinds of gig work – became more apparent. As such, many unemployed persons found an opportunity, though temporary, to earn a wage on their own time.

Malaysia is aiming to empower participants of the gig economy in more ways than one. In January this year, the Malaysian government unveiled the newly implemented Employment (Amendment) Act 2022, which came into effect on the 1st of January. Among the amendments it makes to the Employment Act 1995, it includes the “presumption of employment,” whereby it defines the nature of an employer and employee “in the absence of a written contract of service.” This is a landmark move, as it’s a crucial step to helping gig workers receive various benefits for their services beyond financial compensation.

Singapore has already unveiled plans to introduce legislation that provides significant coverage to “delivery and ride-hailing workers” from 2024, namely “work-related injury insurance and pension coverage.” Other governments in other countries are also planning to introduce similar legislation to provide worker protections for participants of the gig economy.

The Ministry of Transport had also unveiled plans to “formally regulate the food delivery sector” and introduce provisions to protect the welfare of p-hailing riders. Meanwhile, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) hopes to establish a “gig economy framework” to incentivize participation in the digital economy.

Then there’s also the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint, which aims to make Malaysia a “digitally-driven, high-income nation and a regional leader in the digital economy.” Part of its aspirations includes measures to bolster the gig economy by empowering gig workers and equipping them with useful skills to help them improve themselves.

Myths on Gig Workers in Malaysia

There are still widespread misconceptions about the gig economy and gig workers in general, many of which stem from a lack of awareness or understanding of what the gig economy is and what brought about its growth since the pandemic began.

Myth 1: Gig Workers are from Poor Backgrounds

Fact: Not true

A woman doing freelance job

Gig workers come from every segment of society, from white-collar professionals to university graduates. For many of these gig workers, the flexibility and independence that the gig economy offers is a more attractive proposition than sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, five days a week. Add on to the fact that they could potentially earn more than they do at their regular job and they’d be more than willing to sign up for gig work.

Myth 2: Gig Workers are Employees

Fact: Not true

Employement contract for workers

Until the Employment (Amendment) Act 2022 came into effect in January, gig workers are usually considered “independent contractors” or “self-employed.” As such, gig workers are ineligible to receive any kind of employee benefits that a company may give its full-time staff. This includes annual leaves, healthcare benefits, and more.

A contract is usually prepared to formalize the working arrangements between the gig worker and the company that hired the gig worker, but the stipulations in the contract will normally refer to the gig worker as a “contractor” for the duration of the gig and not as an employee.

Myth 3: Gig Workers are Highly Paid

Fact: Partly true

Getting paid after doing a side gig

This really depends on the type of gigs that a person takes on and the amount of time they’ve put into it. It’s common to read about p-hailing riders who say they can earn up to RM4,000 a month (before deducting from their overall expenses). However, to earn that much, some riders need to work as many as 12 hours a day, six days a week. Many of them are aware that this is nowhere as flexible as was advertised, but they may continue as it guarantees a steady source of income.

On the other end of the spectrum, some freelancers can make just as much for gigs that have a high demand. This may include consultants, content writers, social media managers, and so forth. Such gigs aren’t necessarily long-term arrangements and in some cases, there’s also a need to sacrifice flexibility in favour of taking on more gigs to make ends meet.

Myth 4: Gig Workers Have a Lot of Free Time

Fact: Not true

Woman working remotely on a beach

As mentioned above, some gig workers sacrifice flexibility to be able to take on more gigs to earn more. This doesn’t apply to every gig worker, of course, but that flexibility allows them to choose the jobs they want and complete them on their own time and within the stipulated deadline given by the company that hires them.

Myth 5: Gig Workers are Millenials

Fact: Partly true

A man doing online freelance job on his laptop | Homage

The appeal of the gig economy does attract millennials and zoomers, especially with the promises of significant flexibility and being your own boss. However, there are still older persons who also find the gig economy to be a great opportunity. You may have noticed that e-hailing and p-hailing drivers/riders also comprise older adults, either working on a full-time or part-time basis.

One point of concern was raised in a study by the Statistics Department in 2019: approximately 390,000, making up 72.1 per cent of secondary school or SPM leavers, have no intention of pursuing higher education. One such reason for their decision is their intention to take part in the gig economy.

Myth 6: Gig Work Offers Stable Side Income

Fact: Partly true

A man doing e-hailing

Job security is a major concern for gig workers since their employment is primarily a contract-based arrangement with a company that needs to make use of their freelance services. Once the contract is up, the company can choose not to renew it. Some may be lucky to have the contract extended, either because their services are still needed or because they do a good job (or both), but this isn’t always the case.

Myth 7: Gig Workers are Lazy

Fact: Not true

A group of workers discussing among each other

Because job security is not guaranteed unlike full-time positions, gig workers need to go the extra mile to market themselves in order to get a gig and be paid for their services. The longer one isn’t able to find a gig, the longer one may have to go with little or no money in their pocket.

Myth 8: Gig Workers Don’t Pay Taxes

Fact: Not true

Filling in tax form

This would depend on the nature of the gigs. For short-term gigs, gig workers need to use the BE form to file their income. Any income from part-time employment will need to be declared under the “Other Income” section. For regular gigs, it would be considered a business model and requires form B (Individual with Business Income) to be filled.

Pros and Cons of Working in the Gig Economy

Pros and Cons of Working in the Gig Economy | Homage

You might already have noticed that working in the gig economy has its share of pros and cons.

Independence

This is undoubtedly one of the leading factors that have many participating in the gig economy. Many employees, especially millennials and zoomers, find that working on one’s own time is a much better prospect than being confined to a “dead-end” 9-to-5 job. They would much rather be in control of their life, learn and experience various things, and make a living in between these experiences.

Flexible Hours

This goes hand in hand with the independence gig workers have. With the ability to choose the jobs you want, you’re also able to work at hours you deem to be suitable for yourself. You don’t have to answer any employers about how long you need to work. All you need to do is to finish the assigned tasks within the stipulated deadline. In between your work, you’re pretty much free to do anything you want, such as your hobbies.

Varied Opportunities

There are plenty of gig opportunities that one can partake in. Even if you didn’t major in a certain field, you may be able to get the opportunity to do something different from what you’re familiar with. You can also take some time in between gigs to upskill yourself in a field that piques your interest. Alternatively, you can make use of your existing skillset to leverage opportunities that come your way, demonstrating your resourcefulness to potential gig providers.

Passion-driven Work

A lot of people choose to go into the gig economy to pursue their passions and make a living out of it. Granted, it isn’t an easy process; some have found themselves feeling burned out or unfulfilled even from something they enjoy doing. But for many others, it allows them to finally do what they have always wanted to do. That motivation and love for their craft help them to keep doing it while making a comfortable sum to afford their daily necessities and as savings for a rainy day.

Gig Workers’ Welfare

Because you’re not a full-time employee engaged by a company, you aren’t entitled to any benefits the company would normally provide its full-time employees. Apart from annual leaves and medical coverage, you may not be eligible for retirement and social security contributions. Some companies may offer some benefits, but this depends on the company’s policies on gig workers and what they may stipulate in the gig contract.

Not All Jobs are Created Equal

The term “gig” is borrowed from the music world: gigs refer to “single or short-term engagements at various venues” where an artist or band may perform and promote their music, including selling copies of their album to interested audience members. It’s entirely possible for people to not be able to secure a gig for some time (owing to various factors).

This is very much the same for those in the gig economy. Some fields have a higher demand than others, which can cause pay inequality owing to how many are in need of these specific fields.

Job Insecurity

There are plenty of gigs to apply for, but there are also plenty of gig workers seeking these same opportunities. Most gig arrangements are usually short-term, so every gig that you can take on is crucial. The more gigs you can complete, the more you can earn. But as more people jump into the gig economy, opportunities can quickly come and go and you may end up missing out on these opportunities.

Think about the times when you log into e-commerce sites and stumble upon something you’ve been looking for and at a good price. The moment you head into the page to check out the item, you realize it’s already been sold out. It can feel a lot like that when looking for gigs.

Burnout

At some point or another, you may start to feel burned out from the constant hustle and bustle of making a living in the gig economy. Maybe you had a string of repeated gigs doing nearly the exact same thing, or maybe you had a bad experience with a gig or two. Maybe you’ve spent a long time on a gig but the compensation didn’t feel sufficient. After repeated recurrences, you’re bound to feel like you’ve had enough.

Gig Opportunities with Homage

The gig economy is vast, but even with its emphasis on digital technologies, it isn’t solely restricted to content management, digital commerce or e-hailing services. Caregiving is another option for those who are interested, either for people looking for a permanent job, a source of side income, or those who want to make some positive social impact while earning a wage.

Homage-Care-Pro-Caregiver-Training

With Homage, you can do just that. By joining us as a Care Professional, you’ll be able to learn all there is to know about caregiving. Through Homage Academy, you’ll have access to a variety of online and offline courses to kickstart your caregiving career.

Once you’re well equipped for the tasks at hand, you’ll be able to earn up to RM2,000 to RM3,000 in just two weeks, and you can take it from our other Care Professionals! You can even earn a little extra by working on public holidays (an additional RM5 per hour) or on night shifts (an additional RM2 per hour).

You won’t just be making home visits for caregiving duties, though. Homage also offers facility-based job opportunities in partnership with NGOs and private health organisations like Ramsay Sime Darby Healthcare, Baxter, and the Breast Cancer Welfare Association Malaysia (BCWA) for various assistive services. All of this helps you by providing additional income and great learning experiences to enrich your skill set.

On top of that, we’ve also got you covered with insurance! We ensure that you’re covered whenever you head out for any care assignments, so your coverage automatically starts when you go on a visit. The coverage you get is for accidental death, permanent disablement, and accident medical reimbursement. 

Our services are expanding throughout Malaysia, so if you’re in another state or are relocating and seeking work opportunities, we’d be happy to hear from you. You’ll be able to find us in Johor, Penang, Perak, Kedah, Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur.

Register now to be a Homage Care Pro!

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About the Writer
Calvyn Ee
Calvyn is an aspiring author, poet and storyteller. He spends his time reading, gaming and building stories with his action figure photography.
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