The curious case of the taxi driver earning $7000 per month

The 28th October Sunday Times reported that a taxi driver, Mr Muhammad Hasnor Hashim was able to earn $7k a month. He did so by taking advantage of taxi surcharges, and is still able to take a morning nap and have dinner with his family. It is probably a $7k net salary since he quit his $5k security manager job to be a taxi driver with “no regrets”. He admits that he works late on Fridays and Saturdays, when the takings are best (up to $500/night)

This amazing story sheds a couple of important insights:

1. Taxi driving is not a dead-end job. There is an unfortunate perception that taxi drivers tend to be  middle-aged professionals who were laid-off and unable to find a new job, due to an influx of younger foreign talent.

2. Taxi driving can pay well if the driver puts in effort and also drives smartly. Because of the above perception that taxi driving is a “last resort” career move, there is also an assumption that the pay is poor. But Mr Muhammad has demonstrated that this is not the case. I had my own personal anecdote where I spoke to another 30-year old taxi driver who said he was able to earn $5k net per month simply by making sure he is driving instead of drinking kopi at the coffee shop. One other idea I’ve seen is this taxi driver who  arranged with an office worker to be her dedicated chauffeur during the morning commute, thus creating a steady stream of income.

3. The taxi surcharges, whilst painful to consumers, are doing their part to make taxi driving an attractive job. As consumers, we complain when we pay higher prices for the same service. But higher prices sometimes help ensure that the service is always available. Surcharges help to address the common complaint that there are insufficient taxis during the peak periods.

Why then, does the perception of taxi-driving being a dead-end job still exist?

Taxi drivers are one of the few jobs in Singapore that are still exclusively for Singaporeans (i.e. no foreigners). As the job is protected from foreign labor, this helps create the perception that the job is “reserved” for locals as a last resort career move for those who have no choice.

This poor perception is self-reinforcing. If the conventional wisdom is that taxi driving is a last resort career, then it would naturally attract people who deem that they have no other career choice. This also has the effect of driving most people away from taxi driving as a job, since they do not want to be grouped under the taxi driver stereotype. This could result in a situation where quite a few taxi drivers have “self-selected” themselves into this stereotype.

If we also include the stereotype that taxi drivers tend to be anti-government (especially during the GE), then it also creates the unfortunate perception that these people spend their time complaining about the government in kopitiams (instead of spending their time earning money on the road).

But enough of the negative stuff. I support the idea of taxi driving as an attractive career, as well as making taxis a viable alternative to owning a car. (Perhaps the 30-year old age floor should be removed in the taxi licence requirements). I think there are too many private vehicles on the road, which  is causing road congestion as well as taking up too much land for unnecessary carparks. Singapore would be have a much cleaner and more efficient transport network if its people were mostly commuting in public transport or via taxis.

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About sgthinker

I'm a 40-year old Singaporean male, and this blog pens down my thoughts and feelings about Singapore's political happenings, government policies and society trends. I hope this blog will provide a moderate voice in the growing online debate about the state of Singapore's society. Some of the posts here won't be solely written by me, since there will be times when other writers are more eloquent at expressing their views, in which case I'll share their insights (along with my comments). The content on this blog is owned by me.If you wish to share or reproduce the content, please attribute it to this blog.
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7 Responses to The curious case of the taxi driver earning $7000 per month

  1. george says:

    When taxis only come out when surcharges are high, no wonder there are plenty of taxis but none where and when you needed them most!
    “Water, water, everywhere, but no at drop to drink” -from rhyme of the Ancient Mariner

  2. Pingback: Weekly Round Up: Week 44 (29 Oct – 2 Nov 2012) | The Singapore Daily

  3. Ceuz Koo says:

    Another case of government regulations with unintended consequences. Good they are doing well with all the surcharges incentives. Bad that despite all the surcharges, we still don’t get taxi when we need them and going our ways instead of their ways and shift time. Scrap all the surcharges and let good ole free competition drives the demand and supply. BIG Government should hands off!

    • sgthinker says:

      Actually the recent surcharges are a decision made by the Comfort group of taxis, which was soon joine by calls from the National Taxi Association to ask other taxi companies to follow suit. If anything, LTA and the competition commission were criticised for allowing the companies to set these kind of surcharges. So I think its actually free market dynamics that has led to the creation of new surcharges, instead of the gahmen.

  4. Fallacy says:

    The secretly guarded secret of the taxi drivers is out. Many will be pissed off with Mr Muhammad Hasnor for what chinese call “powtohing” on them. Soon there will be rush by many to become taxi drivers and like most emigrants in US, Australia & Canada, our imported talents too will want to become taxi drivers. I guess the trend has already started as I have taken taxis driven by PRCs. With so much demand for taxis, there will soon be a waiting list with taxi companies for taxis and then will just increase the rent to meet demand. BTW, my at least 4 of my neighbours in my condo are taxi drivers.

    • Mark P says:

      The article states that only Singaporeans can legally become taxi drivers, so I don’t see foreigners doing it any time soon!

  5. Pingback: Daily SG: 29 Oct 2012 | The Singapore Daily

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