Increased workforce makes job even harder for moto-taxi drivers

By Le Tuyet   October 27, 2023 | 04:00 pm PT
Increased workforce makes job even harder for moto-taxi drivers
Motorbike drivers of ride-hailing and delivery platforms wait on a street in HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tung
The ride-hailing job market in Ho Chi Minh City has seen increasing competition in already harsh conditions as many laid-off factory workers have taken up the job, according to industry experts.

Pham Mi Sen, a motorbike driver for Grab and vice chairman of the union of motorbike taxi ride-hailing app drivers in HCMC's Binh Tan District, said a large number of people who lost their jobs at factories have joined the workforce, and the number of applicants has been so large that ride-hailing companies have had to delay putting new drivers to work.

Many people were recruited two months ago but have not seen their accounts activated to receive ride bookings yet, Sen said at a conference on digital work platforms held by Fairwork Vietnam on Thursday.

"A new driver means the rest of us lose some customers and have to compete harder for rides," Sen said.

He calculated that a driver needs to work 50% more to increase their income by just 8%. Many people drive day and night, having quick meals right on their bikes, to earn enough for a living.

The job has become even harder while the companies, amid the surplus of manpower, have tightened their regulations about locking drivers' accounts, Sen said.

"Drivers who receive customer complaints twice, on the app, will be suspended. They will be fired permanently after the third complaint," he said.

Earlier a survey by Vietnam Labor Confederation, the Center for Health Consultation and Community Development, and Oxfam found that a Grab's motorbike driver makes an average of VND7 million (US$284.84) a month.

Around two-thirds of the surveyed drivers are married and 60% of them are taking care of at least two other people.

The survey revealed a stressful working environment, where 95% of the drivers have to work 6-12 hours a day, with no days off, under high pressure of having to be on time.

Most of them have had to work in difficult conditions, including bad weather and heavy traffic. They also have to deal the loss and damage of delivered goods, difficult demands from customers, and even sexual harassment, according to the survey.

Sen said drivers are labeled as partners in contracts with ride-hailing companies, but they are the ones "bearing all the consequences."

As business partners, drivers are subject to corporate tax, besides having to share 20% of the fares with the companies.

But the companies hold all power when it comes to setting the terms of cooperation. The contracts allow the companies to suspend or end cooperation with drivers at any time.

Sen said theoretically, ride-hailing app drivers have flexible working time and can turn off the app when they do not want to work. But the reality is one's account will not receive any ride bookings after he/she turns off the app for a couple days.

"Ride booking restrictions are the companies' way to force us to work non-stop," Sen said.

Do Hai Ha, a member of Fairwork Vietnam, said around 600,000 drivers joined ride-hailing app business between 2014 and 2019.

Hai said the relations between the drivers and the companies have not been defined clearly, which prevented the drivers from receiving proper rights.

The network's research found that no ride-hailing platforms in Vietnam could provide firm evidence that all its drivers earn more than the minimum wage, which is VND4.68 million a month in HCMC.

The drivers are having to pay for their own motorbikes, phone and medical insurance. The companies hardly even cover their accident insurance.

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