Freedom, flexible hours drive younger Singaporeans to taxi industry

Freedom, flexible hours drive younger Singaporeans to taxi industry

More drivers aged between 30 and 40 think the job is "a viable way to make a living", says the executive adviser of National Taxi Association, Mr Ang Hin Kee.

Alan Dai taxi driver

SINGAPORE: The National Taxi Association (NTA) saw 2,090 new members between 30 years old - which is the minimum age - and 40 years old in 2014, compared to just 350 of them four years before.

One of the younger drivers is Mr Alan Dai. He is experienced and knows the best spots to pick up passengers, as well as the unspoken rules for managing difficult customers, but Mr Dai is not what you'd call a "taxi uncle."

Said Mr Dai: "(Many) people get into the cab, even the elderly, and say, 'Uncle, I want to go to this place or that place and then after they will apologise and ask, 'young man why are you driving a taxi?'"

The thirty-four year old became a taxi driver after 12 years in the army to spend more time with his family.

"We don't need to worry about what what kind of report to do, whether we are late for a meeting or other things like that," he said. "Because as a taxi driver, as long as your customer service is there, I think you're pretty fine for the day itself.

"It's quite a healthy income - S$3,000 to S$4,000 (a month). If you're a hardworking driver, (this) should not be a problem."

Mr Dai said that more of his peers are joining the industry. For example, in his taxi driving class last year, almost half of the participants were younger than 35.

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NTA's executive adviser Ang Hin Kee said more young people think driving a taxi is a "viable way to make a living".

"There is a need to replace our fairly ageing workforce among the taxi driver pool," said Mr Ang. "That is a concerted effort to try to get younger drivers to come in so that there is a flow, otherwise the pipeline gets closed."

But there is also the concern that younger cabbies are clocking 15 to 16-hour shifts, just because they can. According to Mr Ang, there have been cases of older drivers asking the association to caution their counterparts of the dangers of "pushing on on lack of rest".

"You have to take care of yourself because you can take care of your family," said taxi driver Philip Lee. "That should be the priority for drivers because driving behind the wheel for long hours is no joke."

Mr Ang said that ultimately, there is something that both younger and older drivers can bring to the table: "The older people may share (things like) how to not cruise empty, get new businesses or sustain (one's) business, while the younger ones may say 'this is how you should use the apps' and 'these are the various tools available'. "

Mr Ang said the taxi association also encourages younger drivers to become relief drivers to help other cabbies meet rental costs.

Source: CNA/hs

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