An industrial design student from the National University of Singapore (NUS) produced a short documentary on her experience of working as a food delivery rider and her encounters with other food delivery riders in Singapore.
Wanni Jiang, known on YouTube as ninijiang, uploaded the documentary titled “What it’s like to be a food delivery rider?” in July.
The video–with a running time of just over 15 minutes–has since garnered more than 98,000 views and over 300 comments at the time of writing.
Hailing from China’s Fujian Province, Ms Jiang came to Singapore for her studies and has lived in Singapore for almost 12 years since.
Recounting the beginnings of her experience as a food delivery rider, she spoke about getting to know about the job from “a Malay brother” who she had met when filming a documentary on “Breathing Under Mask”.
The Malay delivery man was one of her interviewees for the documentary.
Ms Jiang interviewed several food delivery riders and asked them questions such as on their daily earnings through the job, what kind of working shifts they had and their reasons for working as food delivery riders.
One food delivery rider she interviewed claimed that working as food delivery with Grab is more flexible compared to other food delivery companies as they can set their “own time own target”.
“You are your own boss,” said one of the riders. “The Grab gives you job. Is (sic) whether you want to receive or don’t want to receive.”
Being a food delivery rider with Grab, he added, comes with protection during the COVID-19 pandemic such as insurance, depending on their ranking level.
Most of the food delivery riders, as seen from their answers in Ms Jiang’s interviews, earn around S$100 to S$200 a day.
63-year-old elderly woman rides bicycle to deliver food from 11am to 11pm daily
Ms Jiang also recounted how she met a 63-year-old elderly woman who worked from 11am to 11pm, riding bicycle to deliver food.
“Maybe she has difficulties in life, but she was friendly and chat with me, and even ask me whether it is difficult for me doing food delivery,” she said.
Ms Jiang also cited a news report by The Straits Times which stated that the delivery business in Singapore has increased about 20 to 30 per cent from April during COVID-19 pandemic.
“Because of the rapid growth of the food delivery industry, many people have changed their lifestyle. Many people choose to order delivery because of convenience,” she said.
“Everyone has their own reason for doing this job. The people I met all had the same characteristic, optimistic. Maybe it’s because of the flexible time, or the fulfilment of self-reliance,” added the YouTuber.
Challenges faced by food delivery riders
However, Ms Jiang also highlighted the challenges faced by food delivery riders such as no Central Provident Fund contribution, which one rider cited as a reason why he would not take up the profession full-time on a long-term basis.
“There is no CPF contribution, if you are looking forward to long term kind of thing, it’s going to be a struggle. Because CPF is kind of important in Singapore to get your housing and all that,” he told ninijiang.
Ms Jiang noted that bad weather and time pressure are some of the other challenges faced by food delivery riders in Singapore.
While on the way to collect food, she met a pair of food delivery riders who showed her a faster route to the shopping mall and share the problem they face when working as food delivery riders.
“Everybody thinks that this job is easy to get orders and earn a lot. But they didn’t know the time we have been waiting for the order and the riding distance. Sometimes, you can’t plan your own route. You have to follow the given route,” one rider told Ms Jiang.
The rider is one-half of a husband-wife duo who were filmed on the job together by Ms Jiang.
She added that Grab requires drivers to follow an order sequence.
“Sometimes, you will get two orders, but you have to follow the order sequence. If you send the second order first, Grab will suspend your account. It’s quite troublesome,” the wife told Ms Jiang.
At the end of the video, Ms Jiang said that her time working as a food delivery rider “is not just a life experience for me”.
“When you pull away from your current work and life to try new experiences, it will not only keep you feeling fresh, but also provides an opportunity for self-examination.
“Although most people pursuit an exquisite and better life, but I believe, only when we experience real life, then we can enjoy life from the heart,” she concluded.
WATCH: What it’s like to be a food delivery rider in Singapore?