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March 8, 2011

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Island cabbie cash offer doubled

A ONE-OFF payment to encourage young drivers on the city's Chongming Island to become downtown cabbies is being doubled, officials said yesterday.

Islanders persuaded to become taxi drivers will receive a 4,000 yuan (US$609) payment, a jump from 2,000 yuan, said Chongming County government.

The need for such an incentive highlights the shortage of cabbies in Shanghai.

Mao Zhenhua, deputy director with Chongming human resources authority, said the subsidies will help recruit 2,000 new drivers. "They are the fresh blood of the taxi industry," said Mao.

Of Shanghai's 100,000 cabbies, a third are from Chongming and this is increasing as many downtown veterans quit or retire.

Since non-locals are not allowed to take bus and taxi driver jobs, Chongming islanders, with their relatively low labor cost, are a popular choice for many taxi fleets.

Chongming native Gao Hui came to downtown more than three years ago to work for Dazhong Taxi Co.

"This job still lures many islanders from Chongming, where there is no heavy industry," said Gao, one of the few female cabbies in Shanghai.

Gao, 36, works 16 to 17 hours a day, earning 2,500 to 3,000 yuan a month, and has bought an apartment in Baoshan District with her husband, a fellow cabbie and Chongming native.

Taxi firms face a labor crisis in the near future, as most drivers are in their 40s and 50s. Yang Hongqin retired in February at the age of 50. "The young sometimes quit after only a couple of months as they now have more options," said Yang.

More than 10,000 drivers retire or quit each year.

The city had considered recruiting non-locals, but never proceeded with this.


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