When we think of front-line heroes in the fight against COVID-19, let’s not forget our delivery riders.
When we think of frontline heroes, we think of doctors and nurses who have been working around the clock to care for the sick among us in the never-ending COVID-19 fight.
We also think of the cleaners who disinfect our public areas to keep our community safe from the virus. Yet we often forget another about group of frontline heroes: our delivery riders.
During Phase Two (Heightened Alert), stricter measures such as no dining-in and a return to work-from-home (WFH) as the norm were put in place. That meant that the majority of Singaporeans had to swap eating out for takeaway and food delivery.
Unlike many of us, delivery riders, and others in the gig economy cannot work from home. They have to brave the elements and COVID-19 risks to keep our nation running.
A delivery driver, Jarrold Tham, recently admitted to the media that right now, he hardly makes S$100 a week from deliveries as compared to the S$70 to S$100 per day during peak periods last year.
It seems that unlike the 2020 circuit breaker, even though online orders have increased, delivery riders like him have not seen an increase in income.
According to TODAY, 1 only one out of nine delivery riders reported a slight rise in earnings. This could be due to more of them working this period—private-hire drivers are also picking up food deliveries to supplement a drop in their earnings—thus the earnings are spread even thinner.
Being a food delivery rider during COVID-19 is not an easy job—they are constantly on the go, even to the extent of eating meals by the roadside, in order to put food on the table. Thankfully, some groups have taken the initiative to set up rest areas for delivery riders to eat and rest.
Nevertheless, it is still a stressful, thankless job.
In May 2021, the wife of a delivery rider who died while delivering goods had to respond to text messages from impatient customers asking about their goods despite just finding out that her husband had passed away. She later shared about the challenges facing delivery riders and asked for more empathy from both customers, and the organisations that employ these gig workers. 2
It’s easy for us to feel over-entitled, especially when we (organisations or customers) are paying for a service. While it is okay to expect some level of professionalism, let’s remember that the people performing the service are human too, just like us.
So beyond just giving them a five-star review, let’s give them a little extra appreciation and support.
I am glad that Singaporeans have been playing our part.
Contribute.sg, a ground-up movement supported by the Singapore Kindness Movement, is working with Sengkang Community Club, and IllustrateSG to make appreciation cards for food delivery riders in the Sengkang area in June 2021.
Children from kindergartens will colour these appreciation cards, part of an appreciation pack (including surgical mask and UV protection arm sleeves) to show our gratitude to delivery riders.
Singaporeans are also reaching out on their own to encourage delivery riders. In several instances, customers have ordered meals, not to deliver to their own addresses, but for riders to share among themselves. Many more have tipped their riders—done through the delivery apps—as a small token of appreciation.
For my birthday, which happened to fall during the Heightened Alert (HA) period, I arranged for a box of my favourite kueh to be delivered to each of my staff and council members. It was a small token to thank all of them for their hard work and to support the hawkers and the delivery riders at the same time.
The gig economy will continue to grow as more organisations digitalise and more people buy their food and other essentials via apps.
It is also important for employers to protect the rights and interests of their workers, whether it be offering better rewards and benefits or stronger protection and safety nets.
Now, when these gig economy workers are faced with more uncertainty and lower incomes, our personal gestures of support can be a meaningful and impactful way to say thank you.
When we think of front-line heroes in the fight against COVID-19, let’s not forget about what delivery riders do.
For all their hard work, the least we can do the next time we order a meal is to give them a big smile and thank them, and leave a tip if you can!
2 Ryan Teo, 25 May 2021, The Pride, Her husband died while delivering goods, but she still wanted to show kindness to his customers. Accessed via: https://pride.kindness.sg/husband-died-delivering-goods/
Dr William Wan is a Justice of the Peace and General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM). He was a senior partner of a regional law firm and a managing director of a psychometric company headquartered in the USA.
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