September 20, 2023
KUALA LUMPUR – Aref Ahmad knows that working as a food delivery rider is not a sound long-term career but right now, it’s the only job he could find in Ipoh that would pay a decent salary.
“When I left school, I went around looking for work in shops, petrol stations and factories. In some of these places, I would work 12-hour stretches but they would not even pay me the minimum wage.”
“At one petrol station, I was supposed to be the cashier. But later, the owner told me to do all other tasks but my pay remained the same.”
“So I decided to quit and became a p-hailing rider. As a rider, the more I worked, the more I earned,” said Aref, 19.
Aref’s story is common among the estimated 15,000 p-hailing riders in Perak, said Perak Motorcycle Delivery Riders Welfare Association president Mohd Azad Mohd Hussin.
Mohd Azad said that despite the diminishing incomes in the industry, working for delivery platforms is still seen as a top choice for school leavers and even older individuals like him.
“Decent paying jobs are hard to come by even in cities like Ipoh and the ones that are available don’t pay that well,” he said, adding that about 70% of delivery riders in Perak worked for the platforms full time.
“Since I left the armed forces, I could not find a job that would pay enough to meet my monthly commitments. So I went into p-hailing. My oldest member is 60 years old. About 45% of those of us in Perak are above 35,” said Mohd Azad.
Their experiences are consistent with a recent national survey of gig workers and p-hailing workers by Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), which found that a majority of those interviewed chose gig work as a main source of income.
The study found that 44% of the 452 workers sampled chose gig work as a main source of income.
In comparison, only about 29% of those surveyed saw it as a supplementary source of income while about 14% chose it for its flexibility, according to the study by UUM’s Economic and Financial Policy Institute.
Compared to those who chose gig work as their primary income source, only 9% of those interviewed said they were doing it while actively looking for a better job, said the study’s seven authors.
The fact that gig work, especially p-hailing and ehailing, has now become a primary source of income for many reflects its important role in the economy and labour market and strengthens the argument for more regulation, said the study’s principal author, Assoc Prof Shamzaeffa Samsudin.
“Its not wrong to get into p-hailing or ehailing but there is a need for professional development, so it’s good that the government is promoting reskilling among platform workers.”
Among the main reasons p-hailing was chosen as a career despite its informal nature and the lack of labour protections was because there were few good formal sector jobs where they lived, she said.
“There are also those who have a mismatch in terms of the skills they have and what is in demand in the job market. Their tertiary education qualifications are not in demand. Or there are jobs but the pay is too low,” Shamzaeffa said when contacted.
Melaka Delivery Riders Association secretary Kamarulazman Ahmad, 34, attests to this problem, saying he had also found it hard to get work in the state after graduating with a certificate in video production.
“The jobs that I found only wanted to pay between RM1,200 and RM1,300 and required me to have my own equipment. But because I had to pay off my education loans I decided to go into p-hailing to make more money,” he said.
Melaka has about 25,000 ehailing and p-hailing workers, of which between 40% and 50% do it full time.
On Monday, The Star reported that p-hailing workers were seeing reduced incomes due to greater competition, decreased demand for food deliveries and changes to delivery fee structures.
Sociologist Prof Chin Yee Whah of Universiti Sains Malaysia described working in p-hailing as worse than being caught in a middle-income trap because their incomes would decrease as more workers joined the sector.