Taxi drivers

Where have all the young taxi drivers gone?










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Where have all the young taxi drivers gone?

Empty taxis are parked in rows in the parking lot of a taxi company in Seoul.  Newsis
Empty taxis are parked in rows in the parking lot of a taxi company in Seoul. Newsis


Low profits, excessive hours pushed them into delivery, courier services

By Lee Yeon Woo

Seven out of 10 taxi drivers are between the ages of 60 and 70, according to data released by the Joint National Conference of Korea Private Taxi Association. Korea is indeed a rapidly aging society, but this time there is a particular factor behind the numbers: an exodus of young drivers.

When the pandemic hit, young drivers quit their jobs to look for work in delivery and courier services instead of driving taxis. Mostly older drivers, more reluctant to drive at night, have remained in the profession, accentuating the shortage of night taxis.

“The demand for taxis has increased after the lifting of social distancing measures. But taxi drivers have left the industry for delivery and courier services to earn more money. Private taxi drivers avoid late driving in the night,” said the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. said on October 4.

Ji Min-soo, a 12-year veteran taxi driver based in Seoul, said he could relate to young taxi drivers leaving the industry.

“The number of customers dropped noticeably during the (earlier phases of the) pandemic. We were barely making any money then. … But when it comes to deliveries, you could get results immediately – unlike the taxis. You can make as much money as you want,” Ji, 51, told The Korea Times.

For drivers in their 30s and 40s, the level of income earned from taxi driving is not enough to support their families and educate their children. Drivers earn on average between 130,000 and 150,000 won per day, according to an official working for a Seoul-based taxi company.

Representative Ku Ja-keun of the People Power Party also revealed data on Tuesday that showed taxi drivers earned a third of those working for delivery and courier services in 2020.

“The case is very different for drivers in their 60s and 60s. There is no workplace where elderly people can regularly earn more than 1 million won per month (other than driving a taxi ),” Ji added.

Seoul-based taxi driver Lee Jeong-wook, 37, said he also considered quitting his job when he came home virtually empty-handed despite his hard work.

“I worked 14 hours yesterday and only earned 200,000 won. I hung around in an empty taxi for 3 hours. A driver’s profit is normally 55% of his income. Considering this, I earned 7,800 won an hour yesterday, which is even below minimum wage,” Lee said.

However, excessive working hours and low earnings are not the only reasons why taxi drivers have left the profession.

“A lot of customers are violent. Taxi drivers are looked down upon more than you think. I had a customer who rudely asked me if I had graduated from college and why a young man like me was driving a taxi to make a living,” Lee added.

Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Won Hee-ryong talks about the ministry's measures to address the shortage of night taxis during a briefing held at the government complex in Seoul on Oct. 4.  Newsis
Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Won Hee-ryong speaks about the ministry’s measures to address the shortage of night taxis during a briefing held at the government complex in Seoul on Oct. 4. Newsis


In a bid to entice drivers to return and increase the availability of late night taxis, the government released a set of measures on October 4, namely to increase the fares for late night taxi calls by 3 000 won ($2.10) to 5,000 won ($3.50). for taxis from franchise platform operators such as Kakao, and 4,000 won ($2.80) for general taxis called through a brokerage agency. The Seoul Metropolitan Government also announced an increase in its base taxi fare from 3,800 won ($2.66) to 4,800 won ($3.36) and an extension of the current window for nightly fares from two overtime, from 10 p.m. instead of midnight. – at 4 a.m.

But taxi drivers remained skeptical about whether the measures will bring back those who have already left the profession.

“The increase in call rates does not affect drivers like us. Everything goes to platforms such as Kakao. These platforms will not let us take call rates even if the government now says that they will let the “drivers take certain call-in fares. Actions other than raising base fares won’t help bring drivers back. They line the pockets of the platforms and corporate taxi companies, not the drivers” , said Kang, 41, a taxi driver.