We spoke with Angeline, a private hire vehicle (PHV) driver with Grab for over 3 years, to find out more about the demands of the freelancer industry and how she balances her time. Angeline started out driving for the JustGrab service where she worked 2 years before moving on to drive for GrabPremium.
Her day starts at 8am when she drops off her son at full day childcare before going about her Grab routine until about 6pm in the evening. Before COVID-19, she would drive daily for a relatively fixed number of hours but when COVID-19 hit, the private hire driver industry and its drivers were some of the hardest hit. Angeline shared that during that period, she also had to take the night shift, often driving until midnight to be able to earn the same amount as she did pre-COVID.
Despite the challenges that she has faced as a freelancer, Angeline chose this path as it offers her the flexibility she requires. Her 6-year-old has hemophilia, a blood condition where his blood does not clot as well and this could pose health risks if he gets a cut and is unable to stop bleeding.
Being a Grab driver means that she can prioritise her son in the event the school calls her. As long as she drops off her passenger, she would then be able to drive to school and pick him up when needed.
Her eyes light up when she talks about her son liking the outdoors and animals. She carves out time where possible to spend together with him, whether it be trips to the Zoo or indulging in his recent interest in going to the SEA Aquarium.
Tiding through tough times
Angeline is thankful to belong to a driver community that has a Whatsapp group to support each other – be it weather or traffic updates or even planning gatherings during pre-COVID times. They even use the walkie talkie app Zello to do location sharing, communicate with each other and keep each other company while on the road.
This is especially important when drivers encounter challenging passengers. In Angeline’s case, she actually had to stop by the side of the road to ask a group of 5 rowdy passengers who had too much to drink and were hitting the windows of her vehicle to leave.
“It’s comforting to know someone has your back in case of anything and that it should not take long for another driver to reach you.”
In spite of the challenges, Angeline has been very resilient and resourceful. As part of the National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA), she qualified for some grants that are aimed at helping freelancers tide through this difficult period. The Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) paid out $3,000 a month for 3 months as part of the Supplementary Budget 2020. This helped to cover Angeline’s car rental which is roughly $100 a day. The COVID-19 Driver Relief Dun (CDRF) is also paying her $10 a day over 2 months and then $5 over the last month.
In particular, Labour MP Yeo Wan Ling has been in contact with many of the drivers and has been listening to their feedback. She has spoken up about the needs and challenges faced by these drivers and acknowledged that they need more support.
Challenges of freelancers
Even as these grants help freelancers tide through this period, more needs to be done to better protect workers. Angeline is thinking of freelancing at an interior design company but still faces the same challenges such as not having any medical, dental or leave benefits, no formal employment contract and commission being paid only if and when clients make full payment. These issues have been regularly brought up by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).
Angeline still strives and looks forward to the day she can provide a better life for herself and her son. She mentioned seeing courses that were part of the NTUC’s Union Training Assistance Programme (UTAP) but is concentrating on more technical skills such as 3D drafting first which is more applicable to the new career path she is thinking of pursuing.
With her positive attitude and continually learning mindset where she is constantly looking to upgrade her skills, Angeline will find it easier to adapt to the dynamic changes in the economy. We wish her all the best as she continues to discover where her interests and abilities lie!