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April 9, 2012

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Home » Metro » Public Services

Out-of-town cabbie scheme halted

AN initiative to recruit out-of-towners to train as Shanghai taxi drivers has been suspended, transport officials said yesterday.

When announced last year, the plan was hailed as a solution to the city's shortage of cabbies.

But a Shanghai transport authority official confirmed to Shanghai Daily that recruitment was halted and could not say when it would restart.

"The program has been suspended," said Huang Xiaoyong, a spokesman with the local transport bureau. "We said last year that it was only a trial."

Huang did not say why the trial ended after 10 months.

However, locals have expressed concerns about non-local cabbies, while drivers have experienced problems settling in the city.

Last June, 1,000 out-of-town drivers, mainly from nearby Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui provinces, were taken on as cabbies after passing tests.

Shanghai has more than 100,000 taxi drivers but the turnover rate is 10 percent annually, due to cabbies quitting or retiring.

While no official figure is available on how many of the out-of-town cabbies remain, some taxi companies and fellow cabbies said some quit claiming conditions were too tough for the wages on offer.

Zhang Zhongjun, an Anhui native cabbie, said two fellow newbies quit as they found it difficult to adapt.

"The working hours are too long and there's a lot of pressure," said Ji Mengliang, a cabbie from Jiangsu.

Cabbies report working up to 16 hours a day for a monthly salary of 3,000 yuan (US$453) to 5,000 yuan.

The industry watchdog believes earnings on offer in Shanghai would appeal to drivers from less developed cities.

But out-of-towners say housing and living costs are also higher in Shanghai.

Some passengers have complained that non-local cabbies are less familiar with routes and that they encounter communication problems as the drivers don't speak Shanghai dialect.

Last month, an out-of-town taxi driver caused controversy after he took detours and kept a 12-year-old girl's school bag as a "deposit" in a bid to extort a higher fare.

The driver responsible was fired and given a ban - the first among the non-local taxi drivers to receive the most severe industry penalty.

Political advisors suggest that the government should offer incentives to attract more locals, instead of looking beyond Shanghai for cabbies.

"There are enough potential candidates locally, so long as authorities invest more to improve conditions and make pay attractive," said Zhuang Ziqun, a member of the city's top political advisory body.

At the end of last year, about 80,000 people under 35 were unemployed in Shanghai.


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