Mr. Christopher Tan, a senior correspondent on transport matters, wrote a concise and factual report of a "surge in numbers seeking to drive taxis" in the front page of today's "The Straits Times".
In summary, he says that because of an improvement in taxi drivers nett earning of 3.5k to 4k per month, work flexibility, independence, use of the taxi like a personal car, "boss-status" and other positive factors, more people are flocking to get a taxi licence. In the last decade, it was about 7,880 yearly, today, it's 9,100 yearly - an increase of 16%. The pool of taxi licence holders has increased to about 96,000, verses fewer than 90,000 before 2007, though only half are active drivers. Many get the licence as a backup in case of unemployment or drive part-time. (Ex-SIA pilots should consider this option)
Younger people and more women are joining the industry as they find the flexible working hours blends in well with their household chores, like picking kids and running errands. More time are also available for the family. In essence, the value of a taxi licence had increased tremendously and becoming a taxi driver in Singapore is a viable career choice.
However, Mr Tan did not say a word on the negative aspect of a cabby's job. I suppose his report was only to highlight the factual surge in numbers and the reasons behind it. After reading the report, which gives the impression that it could be the best job in town, a normal reader would now mull to become a cabby. All taxi companies and training centers should thank Mr. Tan for his invaluable help in their recruitment drives and potential increase in business.
Honestly, as a taxi driver myself, I'm not worried about more competition in this business. It has been a "cut-throat" business for a long time and how much worse can it get. With nearly 26,000 taxis available for service, another few thousands is only ripples in the ocean. My point is, some folks might quit their jobs to join this industry for the wrong reasons.
Besides the "attractive" aspects of a taxi driver's job, as highlighted in Mr. Tan's report, the prospective taxi driver should also look at the other side of the coin, such as the following, before he hands in the resignation letter.
1. Lack of Benefits
A taxi driver is self-employed, with no benefits whatsoever. He won't get pay increment, annual bonus/leaves, free medical/dental expenses, employer's CPF contribution, career advancement etc.... Uniquely, a taxi driver has to pay to rest or while in sick bay. If company's benefits are factored in, a salaried worker with a face salary of $2,000 would actually get close to $3,000 monthly. Presently, the median monthly income of half of all full-time employed Singaporean is about $3,248, inclusive of employers' CPF contribution.
It's difficult to save when daily collections are in cash. A 25 years person working in company will see a saving in his CPF when he retires at 62, whereas a taxi driver will see none unless he buys an early endowment insurance policy.
3. Poor Health
To achieve an income of $4,000 plus, a driver has to drive at least 10 hours a day, 7days a week. Sitting inside a cab for such long hours without exercises is detrimental to health. Those drivers who does not take care of their health but stress themselves to hit a daily income quota would inevitably have chronic illness, like aches, high blood pressure, obesity, kidney/heart diseases, among others.
4. Job Hazards
Assaults, robbery, traffic accidents/fines, fare cheats, insults/quarrels, stress, lack of social life..etc are some common job hazards of a cabby.
5. Lost of Social Status
Driving a cab is not "glamorous" and sad to say, most people perceive taxi driving as a low prestige occupation. A driver must swallow own pride and come to term with this reality, especially for those who were ex-PMET. In addition, cab driving is a service orientated job that requires a lot of interactions with all kind of people and therefore a "tolerant" temperament is essential and be prepared to deal with difficult passengers. If you don't like to meet people, don't ever become a taxi driver because you're going to meet a lot of them, everyday at your wheel.
6. Dead-End Job
Cab driving is a dead-end job with no prospect of career advancement, though the income could provide for a frugal family of four in our increasingly expensive country. I would encourage young people to venture into more challenging careers or business, which offers better opportunities for successes and fortune. This job is most suitable for those above 50 years old and retirees or as a last resort when all else failed, just like what the PhD taxi driver did when he was fired from A*Star. (Link)
Having said the aforesaid, which are common knowledge to the well-heed, I welcome you to the taxi rank and wish you the best of luck.