Ride-hailing cyclists trapped in a tough situation, faced with limited options.

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    Nov 10, 2023

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Motorbike taxi drivers in ride-hailing services face declining incomes, leaving few alternative job options.


Le Huu Trong, a 71-year-old resident of Ho Chi Minh City, diligently keeps the Grab app open on his phone from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. However, despite his dedication, he only manages to earn a meager amount of VND200,000 ($8.20) for his efforts.

According to him, his earnings as a deliveryman have plummeted by approximately 50% in recent years due to the surge in the number of drivers.

To illustrate, presently I need to accumulate 400 points daily in order to receive an additional VND50,000. However, accomplishing that has become unattainable; I can only manage to gather 200-300 points at most per day.

In addition to the decline in salaries and the increasing difficulty of attaining bonuses, Trong highlighted another challenge faced by drivers - the risk of losing money when customers reject delivery of goods.

Pham Mi Sen, the vice president of the Binh Tan District ride-hailing motorbike taxi drivers in Ho Chi Minh City, expresses gratitude for his employment with Grab after being jobless for nine years. However, he laments that despite his unwavering dedication, both his income and social status have gradually declined.

In 2015, I initially embarked on this job. Back then, the minimum fare for a ride was VND9,000, which would be entirely mine to keep.

After a span of nine years, if I were to take the same ride today, I would experience a deduction of 27.27% from the original amount, resulting in VND8.889 as my final payment. It's worth noting that during these past nine years, prices have skyrocketed across the board - be it fuel, vehicles, or any other essential commodities.

He claims that the salaries of drivers have been significantly affected due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Grab recently revealed that in July, drivers' average incomes have witnessed a notable 8% surge compared to the same period last year, as per their calculations.

However, our team noticed a significant increase in the average working time for each individual, ranging from 30-50%. This translates to working for 10-12 hours daily, with some members even putting in as much as 14 hours per day, including overnight shifts.

However, drivers face limited options when it comes to changing careers, even if their current job pushes them to their limits.

According to their statement, they emphasize that they do not impose any obligation on drivers to work for them. They maintain that if we are willing to engage in their services, we are free to do so. However, they also acknowledge and respect our right to discontinue working for them and pursue alternative employment opportunities.

Sen explained that a significant portion of individuals engaged in this occupation are members of society who hold vulnerable positions and currently lack the opportunity to secure a job that provides them with a satisfactory income. This includes individuals with limited education, lack of skills, poor health, or those who are still students.

This job renders them completely reliant, regardless of any resentment or perceived mistreatment they may harbor. It's akin to an intangible tether that binds them tightly.

Trong, like many others, finds himself compelled to embrace the increasing drawbacks that come with his job.

Due to the strain it puts on my eyes, I have adjusted my schedule and now arrive home between 6-7 p.m. Riding during the night has become quite challenging for me. Previously, I would ride for about 12 hours, but I have realized that my eyes become fatigued and it becomes increasingly dangerous to continue riding in the dark. Therefore, I have made the decision to no longer ride at night.

He claims that it would be challenging for him to secure a new job given his existing skill set now that he is older.

According to researcher Do Hai Ha from Fairwork Vietnam, there has been a rapid increase in the number of workers associated with platforms. However, these workers are burdened with expenses such as vehicle and phone costs, as well as the need to cover their own medical insurance.

According to Tran Viet Quan, the founder of Tanca, a digital transformation company, the enforcement of stricter policies by ride-hailing services is an unavoidable and prevailing direction.

Tech startups and other companies that hold control over a superapp expose themselves to the potential danger of losing their sources of funding.

In such instances, individuals will be compelled to adopt a more stringent approach towards managing their finances.

All parties involved, including companies, partners, and drivers, will find themselves in a situation demanding increased revenues and reduced spending. As a consequence, the rights of workers are likely to be impacted.

Another concern arises from the inability of legal systems to match the rapid expansion of tech platforms.

In the realm of technology, it is common for companies to embark on the development and testing journey of multiple models. However, it is worth noting that certain models may lack adequate mechanisms for effective management during their initial stages.

Quan stated that the issue at hand is not limited to Vietnam alone; several other countries are confronted with two challenges. The first involves utilizing laws effectively to govern an increasing number of matters. The second revolves around companies striving to expand their revenues by exploring various avenues.

According to a recent survey conducted by the General Labor Confederation of Vietnam and the Center for Health Consultation and Community Development, in collaboration with Oxfam, it was discovered that Grab drivers are significantly impacted by various socio-economic concerns. The research revealed that these motorbike taxi drivers earn an average monthly income of VND7 million.

Approximately two-thirds of drivers have families, with 60% of them responsible for the financial support of at least two family members.

Approximately 95% of drivers acknowledged that they are required to operate their vehicles for six to 12 hours every day, without any breaks or rest days.

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