By Shubham Saran, head of logistics, foodpanda Malaysia
The gig economy in Malaysia has witnessed an unprecedented surge over the last few years. Catapulted by the Covid-19 lockdown, this has revolutionised the country’s employment landscape, especially in how freelancing work is viewed. This transformation is most evident with the sheer number of p-hailing jobs out there now, which have also become integral to serving the daily lives of Malaysians.
According to the Economic Planning Unit, the gig economy contributed approximately 7% to the nation’s GDP in 2021, underlining its substantial impact. Moreover, this sector has provided income opportunities to around 2 million Malaysians, cementing its role as a significant source of employment. This was especially critical during the pandemic when it became a lifeline for many suffering from the economic impact of Covid-19.
From that, 7 out of 10 workers are p-hailing delivery partners, according to a survey by Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), showing just how important riders are to the economy. The same survey revealed almost half of all gig workers cited financial sustainability as their main reason for joining the gig economy. The reasons are obvious – gig work is the fastest and most flexible source of income, whether supplementary or primarily.
Riders have seamlessly integrated into Malaysian life, facilitating the delivery of food, groceries, packages, and more. Millions of orders crisscross cities and towns to be delivered each day. P-hailing riders not only provide convenience to consumers but significantly boost the growth of quick-commerce and online services. Their work is the backbone of the gig economy and bolsters the broader economy by driving trade and consumption.
In Malaysia, the gig economy has been evolving over the years and the role of riders has been both crucial and complex. While riders view this job as a convenient source of income, drawn in by its flexibility and quick access to fair income, many have criticised the nature of the work as an impediment to socio-economic mobility. But if we look from the lens of the younger generation, they would find gig work a viable springboard to other industries or even entrepreneurship opportunities.
We have to accept that there are many pathways to success for young Malaysians. However, the key importance is in recognising the potential for growth and upskilling within this sector. We delve into the issue currently and encourage our riders to embrace the upskilling opportunities provided to stay relevant in an ever-changing job market for those who view gig economy jobs as a mid- to long-term opportunity.
Commitment to Rider Upskilling
In line with this, it has been the core of foodpanda’s engagement with our delivery partners to provide numerous benefits and upskilling benefits for them. We recognise the pivotal role of riders in the gig economy and are committed to enhancing their value beyond delivery service.
For example, we recently partnered with Manipal International University (MIU) to provide riders with the opportunity to pursue tertiary education focusing on a two-year sponsored journey to complete their Diploma in Business Management.This initiative aims to help our delivery partners enhance the skills and qualifications they need to advance their careers.
In recognition of the importance of language proficiency, foodpanda has taken proactive steps to empower its riders with short English courses. Called ‘Panda Purpose,’ these courses are designed to enhance the English literacy skills of delivery partners, ultimately increasing their job delivery capabilities and employability. This commitment to language education and skills development underscores foodpanda’s dedication to its workforce as well as the quality of service it provides to its customers
Hopes for Gig Workers in Budget 2024
While foodpanda and many of our fellow platform operators have taken the proactive steps in providing upskilling opportunities for our delivery partners, we can certainly do more with assistance from the Government. In line with the upcoming Budget to be tabled in Parliament on Oct 13, we hope that this would be a priority in ensuring that gig workers are given every opportunity to upskill and reskill themselves.
Furthermore, we anticipate and expect improved access to motorcycle loans for the B40 community, aiming to alleviate their financial burdens and for telco companies and 5G service providers to consider reducing pricing for riders and merchants, ensuring better connectivity for all.
P-Hailing Professionals as Pillars of Reliability
In this industry, riders constantly face challenges, and they respond well with solutions that improve the way things work. These riders are quick thinkers and always prioritise the customers. For instance, many riders share their tips among themselves to purchase marker pens and cling film to make sure orders are accurately written and the meals and drinks are delivered intact.This teamwork is key to successful deliveries. Merchants count on riders as vital extension of their service, and their ability to work well together is a skill they’ve honed over time.
Although foodpanda and many other platform providers rely on cutting-edge data technology and understanding customer behavior with surgical precision, it is our delivery partners who will ensure that every order will be an enjoyable experience for our customers. Exceptional customer service is a cornerstone of their work. They handle inquiries, resolve issues, and often go the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction.
The gig economy, including p-hailing, is known for its ever-changing landscape. Whether it’s adapting to new routes, technologies, or customer preferences, these riders are always on their toes. They embrace change and adaptability as part of their daily routine. The ability to pivot in response to evolving circumstances is a skill the riders continually refine.
P-hailing workers are the backbone of modern food and goods delivery services, proving to be indispensable during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring access to essential items and enhancing the quality of life for many. Additionally, the gig economy provides crucial income opportunities for various individuals seeking flexible work arrangements, promoting financial stability and independence.
A career in p-hailing encompasses a rich tapestry of skills and qualities that profoundly impact our daily lives. These professionals are not just delivery partners but problem solvers, team players, customer service champions, and adaptable individuals of our society. It’s time we celebrate and honour their contributions to our society and economy while giving them the opportunity to thrive.