A sunset industry
Times have changed – We’ve heard this phrase countless times, so much so that we’re sick of it. As technologies evolve, their ability to disrupt the economy increases – such is the case in the taxi industry, where the entry of ride-hailing firms from Grab to Gojek has increased competition in the point-to-point sector, which taxi drivers are included.
The need to adopt technology is increasingly real as the taxi industry faces a labour crunch – its fleet numbers have been decreasing since the 2014s. From 2014 – 2022 alone, the number of taxis in Singapore decreased by more than half, and in the same period, the number of private hire vehicles (PHVs) increased more than three times.
Fallen into the digital gap
Older taxi drivers who are used to traditional ride-hailing methods – the taxi stands, and flag downs are increasingly at a disadvantage. Some learnt to change and adapt, while some are change-averse and want to stick to traditional ways of earning a living. Is the responsibility to upskill entirely on taxi uncles and aunties? Or do we have to consider other contexts?
Success stories and other perspectives
Taxi drivers who have pivoted themselves to their taxi companies’ digital platforms have found the benefits of doing so, and now they almost entirely depend on online bookings through the application.
Other taxi drivers who have remained steadfast in their tradition cited that taxi companies provide way more insurance and vehicle maintenance coverage that private companies do not offer. Maintaining traditional ways of living comes with a cost; take-home incomes for drivers who pick up customers traditionally can fetch 35 per cent lesser than a driver who pick up customers via applications.
Woes do not end at competition
Apart from the competition from ride-hailing platforms, taxi drivers must grapple with overhead costs, pandemic-induced consumption habits (less ride-hailing), inflation which affects fuel and maintenance costs.
Customers face woes as well, too. Older customers who are not accustomed to booking cabs or private hire vehicles with applications said that they had to wait longer times or walk to places with greater traffic in order to get a cab.
The overall fall in supply of taxis and PHVs has caused pricing to surge, to the annoyance of commuters.
We can all ask ourselves – when was the last time we flagged down a cab or took a cab? We’re annoyed with fare surges from PHV platforms, but there is little we can depend on taxi companies as they struggle to muster the supply demanded by consumers…
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A young Singaporean concerned about issues workers face. As humans, we spend a third of our lives sleeping and recharging, and another third for our personal life, and the last third at work (based on a 24-hr distribution). That’s why we should pay attention to issues surrounding work.