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Social security net vital for p-hailing riders

24 Nov 2020 / 11:30 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: Ahmad Nazirul Azrie Ahmad Noh was unemployed for a year after getting a diploma in Malaysian Automotive Skills Technology from Sungai Buloh Vocational College in 2018.

He had applied to over 10 companies for a job but when he failed to get any positive response, he decided to take the plunge and do what thousands of Malaysian youths have done – be a part of the gig economy by becoming a p-hailing rider. (P-hailing refers to the delivery of parcels and food via online applications.)

The job is unrelated to his educational qualifications and has its own risks but “it keeps me employed and is an honest source of income for me... I was fed up with being jobless and dependent on my parents”, Ahmad Nazirul Azrie, 22, told Bernama.

The gig economy has provided unemployed youths such as Ahmad Nazirul Azrie the opportunity to be self-employed but, sadly, many of them – particularly those in the delivery or p-hailing sector which requires them to be on the road most of the time – are unaware of the importance of having a social safety net to fall back on in the event they meet with an accident while at work.

In the case of Ahmad Nazirul Azrie, he had his share of near misses while on duty. However, in November 2019 – four months after he became a rider – he met with a serious accident that left his left leg broken and his motorcycle a total wreck.

He was in the hospital for 10 days and later spent two months at home to recuperate.

“Initially after the accident, I was worried I may not be able to walk forever. Thankfully, I made a full recovery but the accident made me realise how important it is for me to have social security,” he said.

Not protected

Ahmad Nazirul Azrie said the thought of contributing to the Social Security Organisation (Socso) never occurred to him as he assumed that it was only meant for those who are employed on a permanent basis.

“I didn’t know that the self-employed can also contribute to Socso and be entitled to its benefits,” he said, adding that since June this year, he has been dutifully contributing to Socso.

In July this year, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz was quoted by the media as saying that only seven percent of the estimated 400,000 gig workers in Malaysia were contributing to Socso. The government, he said, is hoping for more workers in the gig economy to be registered with Socso so that their welfare would be safeguarded.

Among the worker protection schemes offered by Socso is the Employment Injury Scheme which provides various benefits such as medical benefit, temporary disablement benefit, permanent disablement benefit and facilities for physical and vocational rehabilitation.

The Employment Injury Scheme also provides benefits to the dependents of a member who dies as a result of an employment injury, as well as funeral benefit and education benefit.

Ahmad Nazirul Azrie, who is secretary-general of the Malaysian P-Hailing Deliverers Association, is now a strong advocate of social security and is encouraging the association members to contribute monthly to Socso.

The association, which was set up in August this year, has about 3,000 members, of which 1,293 are Socso contributors.

“I regret not contributing to Socso earlier but better late than never. Many fellow riders have died in road accidents while on the way to deliver food... since they didn’t contribute to Socso, their families were left in the lurch,” he said, adding that the association is creating more awareness among p-hailing riders on the importance of contributing to Socso via social media platforms.

Statistics worrying

According to data provided by Bukit Aman’s Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department, 150 road accidents and four deaths involving p-hailing riders were recorded in the first three months after the Movement Control Order was enforced on March 18.

Alliance for Safe Community chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said these statistics were worrying, more so because many p-hailing riders are not making contributions to protect their social security interests or that of their families.

“It is a very serious situation... it’s highly probable that many of them are unaware of the benefits provided by Socso. From what I understand, some of them feel that the (monthly) contributions (they have to make to Socso) are high and a burden to them,” he said.

Lee urged Socso to conduct more awareness programmes to publicise the benefits provided to workers who meet with accidents while at work and the compensation given to them, as well as the monthly contributions they have to pay to Socso.

Such awareness programmes, he said, are not only meant for p-hailing riders but also for others who have to ride a motorcycle in the course of their work.

Lee, who is also a member of the National Road Safety Council, is a passionate advocate for road safety and often raises the issue of the high death rate among motorcyclists in this country. He has also suggested the setting up of a special task force in the Ministry of Transport to address this issue. An average of 4,000 motorcyclists and pillion passengers reportedly die in accidents on Malaysian roads every year.

The high death rate is a cause for concern for Lee, more so now when many youths are entering the p-hailing sector to earn a living but have no social security net to protect them.

Budget 2021 initiative

In a move to offer social security protection to self-employed groups and others, the government has allocated RM24 million in Budget 2021 for contributions to Socso’s Employment Injury Scheme. This is set to benefit some 40,000 p-hailing riders and 60,000 members of the Armed Forces, police reserve volunteers, civil defence volunteers and maritime volunteers, among others.

When tabling the budget at the Dewan Rakyat on Nov 6, Tengku Zafrul had said that the allocation would also benefit p-hailing riders in appreciation of the services they rendered as part of the frontliners or support group during the MCO period.

Commenting on this, Lee said the allocation reflected the government’s commitment to safeguarding the welfare of all communities, including delivery riders.

“Previously, health and safety practitioners were claiming that while the nation is encouraging unemployed youths to get involved in the gig economy, nothing much was being done to take care of their welfare.

“But Budget 2021 has taken their needs into consideration and with this, I hope that p-hailing riders will not miss out on the opportunity given to them by the government to protect themselves and their families,” he added. — Bernama

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