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Asia’s gig workers strive to match global gains on labour rights



BANGKOK: Emboldened by the victories of delivery riders from New York to the Netherlands, gig workers in Asia are increasing pressure for better conditions from app-based businesses that have thrived during the pandemic.

The platforms, like their counterparts in the United States or Europe, have taken advantage of lax labour protections to demand long hours in exchange for low wages and few benefits like sick pay or health cover, rights advocates say.

“The platforms have been able to fudge it,” said Balaji Parthasarathy, principal investigator at FairWork India, which rates gig economy companies.

“This is where regulation can help – it will define when they can be treated as employees and when as partners, and what benefits they should receive,” he said.

As scrutiny of app-based businesses increases across the region – partly due to workers’ protests – authorities are starting to call for tighter legal protections.

Chinese regulators in July ordered online platforms to ensure delivery riders earn above the minimum wage and have access to insurance coverage, while Singapore’s government is looking into increasing protections for such workers.

In India, where about five million people work in the gig economy, a social security law was introduced last year to extend benefits to the segment – but it has not yet been implemented by the states.

Last week, a union representing about 35,000 Indian gig workers filed a petition in the nation’s top court seeking social security benefits from platform companies including Uber, Ola, Zomato and Swiggy – the first such lawsuit in the country.

“It’s a big milestone; platform companies are quite new in India, and while we’ve seen some localised strikes, workers didn’t have a united front before,” said Pradyumna Taduri, a researcher at FairWork.

“But workers have begun to assert themselves vocally and push back. And the visibility of the sector – especially the food delivery workers, the drivers – makes it hard to ignore them,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


The gig economy – where people pick up work in a flexible manner from app-based platforms – boomed during Covid-19 lockdowns, as people needed goods and food delivered to their homes, and as millions of newly jobless looked for work.

But many people drawn to gig work for its flexibility have said they are being exploited.

With platforms generally classifying workers as independent contractors, half of online workers earned less than US$2 (RM9) an hour, with workers in developing countries earning 60% less than those in developed countries, according to the United Nations.

Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, said he was “especially concerned” about delivery workers who are “just like employees” yet lack basic job protection and find it harder to afford housing, healthcare and retirement.

The city-state is looking into providing gig workers – particularly delivery staff and drivers – better retirement and housing provisions, injury insurance and negotiating rights, said Danny Quah, vice-chairman of a government advisory committee set up to study the sector.

“Flexibility doesn’t mean unprotected,” said Quah, an economics professor at the National University of Singapore.

“We want platform workers to have an appropriate level of protection in the immediate present and for their future… this is important not just for Singapore but for any nation,” he added.

Part of the problem is that workers are not classified as employees, meaning their associations do not have the same clout as trade unions, said Yeo Wan Ling, an advisor to the National Delivery Champions Association and the National Private Hire Vehicles Association.

“We are calling for stronger legislative backing to better represent these workers,” she said.

London-based Deliveroo, which has about 9,000 riders in Singapore, said it welcomed the move to improve conditions for its delivery workers – as long as their freelance status did not change.

“Riders should have flexibility and security and we’re in favour of increasing riders’ protections, as long as this does not compromise their self-employed status,” a spokesperson said.

Balancing interests

There were nearly 800 digital labour platforms – from food delivery to web design – around the world last year, up from about 140 a decade earlier, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The boom is an opportunity for the economy, said Quah, adding that the goal in Singapore was to “find a way forward that balances the interests of all”.

Part of that involves studying gig worker rulings from around the world, and seeing how they might be adapted to local conditions.

In contrast to North America or Western Europe, in poorer countries such as India the app-based jobs “are not gigs, but livelihoods”, said Parthasarathy.

Hundreds of thousands of workers in India depend on these companies for their livelihood, said Shaik Salauddin, national general secretary of the Indian Federation of app-Based Transport Workers (IFAT) which filed the court petition.

After strikes and petitions to state governments fell on deaf ears, Salauddin said they had been inspired by the legal victories of fellow gig workers around the world.

“We’ve seen that in many places like London and Los Angeles, workers like us are being given rights – that is what we also want.” – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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Gig Worker Benefits Platform Stride Health Announces $47 Million In New Funding




Stride Health, a benefits platform designed specifically for independent workers, today announced that it has raised $47 million to build on its platform, grow membership, and expand partnerships and distribution channels. 

The company helps independent workers—freelancers, part-time workers, independent contractors, and other gig economy workers who don’t get health insurance benefits through an employer—sign up for health insurance via It guides users through health plan selection and offers members other financial benefits and guidance. 

“The reason we exist, what excites me and gets me out of bed every day is that we need an individualized benefits system that draws affordability, portability, and access,” said Noah Lang, Stride cofounder and CEO. “That’s why we’re here.”

To date, Stride has enrolled 2.7 million members. To reach independent workers, Stride partners with companies that rely heavily on gig workers, such as Uber, Amazon, DoorDash, Instacart, and GrubHub, among others.

This year, Stride increased health insurance enrollments 3.5 times over 2020, highlighting the opportunity to serve gig workers with benefits traditionally provided by employers. 

While half the U.S. population gets health insurance through an employer, more than one-third of the workforce works in the gig economy full- or part-time, according to Upwork.

Covid-19 only accelerated Americans’ embrace of the gig economy. Upwork’s data also showed that 12% of workers started freelancing during the pandemic. And there may be no turning back; 60% of people who had taken up freelancing reported that no amount of money would convince them to take a traditional job again. 

But the pandemic also revealed cracks in the traditional employer benefit system, according to Lang. People who lost their jobs and took up independent work were forced to find their own benefits or go without coverage during the pandemic.

“If we had decoupled those things more constructively, most people [would] be better off,” Lang said.

The needs of independent workers will only become more central in the U.S. By 2028, an estimated 90 million Americans will be freelancers.

Freelancing and other independent work offers flexibility and earning power, but leaves these workers without the financial benefits of traditional employment. 

“While we’ve seen that kind of unbundling of work and income and benefits and safety nets, we’ve not seen an upgrade or an update to the way those benefits get delivered,” Lang said. 

The modern-day employer-sponsored health insurance system emerged in response to wage freezes during World War II and Lang says the system hasn’t kept up with changing times.

“We had this 70-year-old benefit system that has not evolved one bit,” he said. “While at the same time, work has changed dramatically.”

Investors clearly see the business opportunity in redesigning employee benefits for workers outside of traditional full-time employment. 

“The speed at which Stride’s business is scaling speaks to the urgency of the need and the value that its platform delivers to this essential, yet underserved, segment of the U.S. economy,” said Megan Guy, General Partner and Co-Founder of King River Capital, in a press release. 

Guy will join the Stride Board of Directors, along with Opeyemi Oluwole, senior vice president of Consumer Engagement at Teladoc, bringing the number of women on the Board to two. Like nearly half of all venture-backed healthcare companies, Stride previously had no women on the Board.

The latest Series C funding, led by King River Capital along with Mastercard and Allstate, brings the company’s total fundraising to $96 million. Previous investors include Venrock, NEA, Fidelity’s F-Prime Capital, and Moderne Ventures.

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Pacific Prime Dubai wins AXA-GIG’s “SME Rising Star” award in 2021




DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–()–Pacific Prime Dubai, a global health insurance brokerage and employee benefits specialist, is extremely delighted to announce that they have been presented with AXA-GIG’s SME Rising Star award at the insurer’s annual broker event at the French Pavilion Expo in Dubai on 17 October, 2021.

Working with SMEs in a range of industries, Pacific Prime Dubai has a nuanced understanding of the challenges faced by SMEs, and has expertise in helping SMEs find the right insurance solutions at a competitive price point. The brokerage utilizes a tailored, technology-driven approach, which includes their bespoke Prime Care Portal (PCP) to simplify the entire plan administration process.

Laura Gerstein, Chief Employee Benefits Officer at AXA-GIG, said: “During our 2021 VIP Broker event at EXPO 2020 French Pavilion, we were delighted to recognize Pacific Prime with our Rising Star – SME award 2021. This award reflects the substantial growth of SME group business policies that have been placed over the past 12 months. May we continue to collectively grow our businesses together to benefit our mutual clients and members with the best products and services in the MEA region. On behalf of the entire AXA Gulf Employee Benefits Team, thank you!”

David Hayes, Regional CEO at Pacific Prime Dubai, said: “I would like to extend a huge congratulations to everyone on the team for this well-deserved award. This is the second year in a row that Pacific Prime Dubai has received an SME-based award from AXA-GIG, and I believe it is a testament not only to our strengths in servicing SME clients, but also our long-standing partnership with AXA-GIG.”

About Pacific Prime Dubai

Established in 2000 in Hong Kong, Pacific Prime is a global health insurance brokerage and employee benefits specialist, focusing on delivering best-value insurance solutions to individual and corporate clients around the world. The brokerage has grown to establish a truly global footprint with a presence across Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas.

To learn more about Pacific Prime Dubai, please visit:


AXA is one of the world’s leading insurance and asset management groups, servicing individuals and business clients in 54 countries, while GIG (Gulf Insurance Group) is the regional anchor to AXA’s global expertise. This comes after GIG completes an acquisition deal for AXA operations in the gulf region.

To learn more about AXA-GIG, please visit:

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Baskett weaves rookie season into starting gig with hometown Wanderers




With the HFX Wanderers’ offence sputtering recently, young keeper Kieran Baskett has become the Canadian Premier League club’s de facto MVP.

But for the rookie from Halifax, he’s just doing his job for the hometown team in the thick of a playoff hunt.

I’d like to see us score more goals but that’s not my problem. I’m just happy to do my job and if we’re scoring goals or we’re not, I’ll do my best to keep the ball out of the net.

“My job is to keep the ball out the net and I try to do my job as best as I can,” said Baskett, who turned 20 on Sept. 27.

“I’d like to see us score more goals but that’s not my problem. I’m just happy to do my job and if we’re scoring goals or we’re not, I’ll do my best to keep the ball out of the net.

“The main thing is we’re not getting beaten and that’s a really good quality to have going into playoffs. I think we’re a hard team to beat.”

While the offence has sputtered recently without injured scoring star Joao Morelli and his league-leading 14 goals, the Wanderers (8-7-10) have held onto the fourth and final playoff spot in the CPL table. (They remain one point ahead of York United with three games remaining in the regular season.)

In their past four matches, the Wanderers have been shut out in three of them and in the other – a 1-0 victory over Pacific FC on Oct. 11 – the lone score came on a Pacific own goal.

As a team, the Wanderers have scored a league-low 26 goals. Yet, in the past two months, they are the hottest team in the CPL with only one loss in 14 matches since Aug. 14. Eight of those results, though, were draws.

Baskett has posted three clean sheets in a row, beginning with the Thanksgiving win over Pacific and highlighted by a spectacular save in the final minute of stoppage time Oct. 17 in Calgary. Host Cavalry FC was awarded a penalty kick, but Baskett made an unbelievable stop, diving to his right to deny lethal striker Joe Mason with his fingertips to preserve the 0-0 draw.

Since Sept. 6, Baskett has started in eight of the Wanderers’ past nine matches, posting a 4-1-3 mark, and their Canadian Championship quarter-final against CF Montreal on Sept. 22.

HFX Wanderers keeper Kieran Baskett dives to make a save during an Oct. 6 match against Forge FC at the Wanderers Grounds. - TREVOR MacMILLAN / CANADIAN PREMIER LEAGUE
HFX Wanderers keeper Kieran Baskett dives to make a save during an Oct. 6 match against Forge FC at the Wanderers Grounds. – TREVOR MacMILLAN / CANADIAN PREMIER LEAGUE

What’s impressive is that Baskett’s debut didn’t come until Aug. 17, when he got the start in the Wanderers’ Canadian Championship preliminary match against AS Blainville, leading the Wanderers to a 2-1 victory.

“I didn’t see it working out like this, but I always thought I’d get my chance,” said the six-foot-three Baskett, who joined fellow Haligonian Christian Oxner to form the Wanderers’ goalkeeping tandem for the 2021 season.

“I have definitely been fortunate with how it has gone. I think I’m doing what I can to keep the job. It’s been a great season for me. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve improved in the last two months, just playing the games. I’m up to speed at this level.”

It has happened at a lightning-quick pace. But if it wasn’t for the COVID-19 pandemic, Baskett would likely still be studying and playing NCAA Division 1 soccer at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

The former Suburban FC keeper – whose mother, Gillian Hamilton, competed for Canada in the biathlon at the 1994 Winter Olympics – attended boarding school in Maryland and played for Baltimore Celtic Soccer Club while in high school.

His freshman season at William & Mary in 2019, Baskett started all 18 matches and played every minute in goal for the Tribe, leading the Colonial Athletic Association conference in saves (71).

Then the pandemic hit and shuttered the 2020 season. Baskett didn’t return to the States, opting to do online learning. It was in January when the Wanderers offered him a contract for the 2021 season with a club option for 2022.

HFX Wanderers keeper Kieran Baskett leaps to grab the ball to deny a scoring attempt by AS Blainville during a Canadian Championship preliminary match Aug. 17 at the Wanderers Grounds. - TREVOR MacMILLAN / CANADIAN PREMIER LEAGUE
HFX Wanderers keeper Kieran Baskett leaps to grab the ball to deny a scoring attempt by AS Blainville during a Canadian Championship preliminary match Aug. 17 at the Wanderers Grounds. – TREVOR MacMILLAN / CANADIAN PREMIER LEAGUE

An opportunity to stay home and play pro soccer couldn’t be turned down.

“Things happen for a reason,” said Baskett, who’s still pursuing his education by taking online classes at Dalhousie. “It was good timing for me, just a blessing. The pandemic brought me back home, but it allowed me to pursue my dream as a professional.

“My parents were a little concerned about me leaving university. But I always wanted to play professional soccer. I never thought it would be in Halifax.

“It’s definitely a big step up from university. The ball moves faster at this level and the shots come harder. It took some time to get used to.”

The Wanderers head out on their final road trip of the regular season. They travel to Winnipeg to face Valour FC on Tuesday evening and then to Hamilton to play Forge FC on Saturday. The Wanderers’ regular-season finale is Nov. 7 at home against Atletico Ottawa.

“We have to get the results,” Baskett said. “If we can continue what we’re doing defensively, I think the goals will come. We’re in a pretty good position heading out on the road.”

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