Are our Taxi Drivers racist?

Singapore is multi-religious & multi-racial country. FACT
There is racism in Singapore. TRUE
Singapore is a racist country. FALSE
All of the above is simply my OPINION

Singaporeans love to complain.  Singaporean Indians  love to attribute our unhappiness to one popular phenomena: Racism. I did not get the job (The Interviewer was racist) I did not get my promotion (My boss is racist) The Taxi did not stop for me (The Taxi driver is racist). Hearing the above far too many times so I decided to write about it. Taxi drivers are probably the most hated people in Singapore. Apparently, the insurance agents are better than them (at least , you get a free meal or drink when you meet them). There are so many types of drivers in Singapore; from private transport to bus to train to monorails to Uber and Grab Car. Why is the dislike limited towards taxi drivers only? What is so unique about being a taxi driver?

My little social experiment
Recently, the 'racist taxi driver' accusation has been gaining more flight of late. So, at about 4 am on a clubbing night, the idea to test the above struck me. I tried to hail a cab and informed the taxi driver that I had only $12 for the journey back home that would normally take $21. I tried to look visibly drunk and threatening (I did not have to try hard for both). I gave the drivers ample opportunity to drive off  as I only communicated to the drivers via an open window as opposed to having the door open and leaving him with little choice but to take me.

Needless to say, I got the usual  declines. One Indian driver even decided to take the opportunity to insult me for being irresponsible and choosing to spend my money on alcohol. To my surprise, I did not need to wait long. Along came my saviour, who smiled when I informed him about my financial predicament and signaled me to hop in.

During my journey, I did probe him to check if my experiment could have failed in anyway ie, he was ending his shift at my residential area.  He did not find a big deal in giving me a significant discount. He offered me a ride because I was in a tough spot and he appreciated my honesty in telling him at the onset.

[Faith in Humanity Restored]

The Human beneath the TAXI DRIVER

Every child growing up has an ambition. It is either self-formulated through observations or incepted by our parents; doctor, lawyer, engineer, pilot etc

Considering that the citizen population is 3.27 million and the citizen workforce population is 1.7 million and the number of valid taxi driver vocational license holders are just shy of 100,000.  Just to put things into perspective, the total number of civil servants is estimated 143,000 and the number of our active strength in our Armed Forces is around the 70,000 mark. Taxi drivers form, possibly the largest occupational category among the citizen working force.

The irony in that is that no taxi driver actually grew up wanting to be one. In my numerous conversations with various taxi drivers, one commonality struck me: they belong to a group that fell within the cracks.  The system failed them. Almost every taxi driver has a story that you do not wish for yourself. There is a common stereotype that taxi drivers are anti government. While I cannot confirm the above, its not difficult to believe it considering that most of them feel that they have been hard done by the State. Especially with Temasek having invested atleast 10 million in Grab Taxi, the taxi driver has all the more reason to be angry with the State.

The icing on the cake is that this segment of the population probably have the worst work life ever. Before you start shooting me back with "a brainless, stress free, sitting job with air-con", let me assure you that their life is not easy. Try having a job that gives you no leave.  Rain or shine, sick or weak, wedding or passing, the taxi driver has to settle his rental payment everyday. The next time you get into a taxi, you can start by thanking him.

He is most probably someone who has been failed but keeps on striving. This man is probably the most hardworking person you have met. If he falls asleep, wake him up and engage in a conversation with him. If he is angry, its likely that the passenger before you has been rude to him. Cheer him up.

LTA should probably start waking up their ideas and start treating Taxi Drivers as humans. Just as MOM has limits on the maximum number of hours/days one can work, LTA should impose a compulsory day off  per week (without rental)  for taxi drivers  and 14 days annual leave (rental will be waived) as a starting point.

My small experiment does not change the fact that there are some people who are racist. But, I hope I have given you an opportunity to look at taxi drivers in a different light. Before you decide to accuse / label a person as being racist, take a step back and think again.
Proof of Experiment

[Note: For those who are wondering, I did pay the full payment of $21 to the driver]

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