The Academic

Actress Laura Kee smiles at the camera

In the midst of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Laura found herself helping other self-employed creatives to navigate government relief schemes. She also became involved in The Actors’ Society, an association seeking to advance the welfare of actors in Singapore. While advocating for better protection for the rights of media freelancers in Singapore, she was made aware of the gap between arts practitioners and policy-makers. This led to her desire to better understand how to bridge this gap.

Laura completed a Master of Arts in Arts & Cultural Leadership at Lasalle College of the Arts in 2024. Her research interests lie in advocacy for media workers and the recognition of the precarity of creative labour, especially within the context of Singapore. She hopes to be able to contribute to the formulation of policies that will benefit the Singapore media industry.

Her thesis, titled “Precarious Labour in Singapore’s film, television and video industry – the limitations of policy and potential for collective action”, is the first such academic research into the precarity of media labour in Singapore. Laura hopes to find research collaborators, funding for further research into this area, as well as opportunities to share her research knowledge and expertise.

Thesis Abstract

Precarious labour in Singapore’s film, television and video industry – the limitations of policy and potential for collective action

Since the Creative Industries Development Strategy was put forth by the Singapore government in 2002, the media sector has been developed as part of the push to build a creative economy in Singapore. However, there has been no academic research into the precarity of own account workers in Singapore’s film, television and video industry. This group of workers, otherwise known as freelancers, face inconsistent working conditions, such as the lack of contracts, tardy payments, long working hours and unsafe work environments.

Through a mixed method research approach, this study verified the adverse working conditions faced by this group of workers, and found that budget limitations and the lack of standardisation and accreditation in the industry have contributed towards their labour precarity.

These problems have persisted for years, because no one has taken responsibility for resolving these problems. The Infocomm Media Development Authority, Singapore’s media regulator, prioritises the info-communications sector over the media sector, and does not regulate the industry. The government has not set standard regulations for own account workers, beyond issuing a set of guidelines for the procurement of media freelancers. Trade unions in Singapore are traditionally weak, as they are not viewed as independent from the government, and there are strict regulations on the use of industrial action. Freelancers in Singapore are not allowed to engage in collective bargaining, limiting the power of the union and professional associations.

Further research and data collection on media freelancers is necessary, in order to suggest appropriate policy measures that may mitigate the precarity of this group of workers.