Monday, September 18, 2023

The plight of ehailing gig workers

Changing times: ehailing drivers and food delivery riders are finding it hard to make ends meet in the current situation. — FAIHAN GHANI/The Star

The good times are over

As earnings dry up, gig workers have to consider other options


The Star Monday, 18 Sep 2023

GEORGE TOWN: The dream of making thousands of ringgit a month as a gig driver or food delivery rider is over.

Higher competition, the end of Covid-19 pandemic movement restrictions as well as changes in fee structures mean that gig drivers and riders are now earning less than what they used to make during the pandemic.

“The time for that is over, especially for delivery riders who used to make thousands of ringgit a month just because eating out was not allowed then during the pandemic (lockdowns),” said sociologist Prof Chin Yee Whah of Universiti Sains Malaysia.

“Taking up gigs is worse than being in a middle-income trap because as more people join, the income for a driver or delivery rider becomes much lower,” he added.

ALSO READ: Gig economy commission to improve welfare of workers to be unveiled in Budget 2024

Prof Chin said it was understandable for youth today to be caught up in materialism and the desire for instant gratification, which has resulted in them – especially the recent post-SPM cohort – leaning towards gig jobs that offered what would seem like a handsome income in the beginning.

In May, a survey by a private university reportedly found that 49% of SPM school leavers did not plan on furthering their studies, and 26% of them said they planned to be ehailing drivers or delivery riders.

“It won’t work. Even if you spend over 10 hours a day on that kind of work and earn as much as RM4,000 a month, when you fall in love and get married and try to raise a family, you will find yourself stuck in a circle with no chance for growth,” he warned.

Prof Chin said it was now time for teachers and community leaders to mentor youths on the need to seek out careers and skills, and to patiently enhance these skills to get a proud footing on life.

Prof Chin said it was now time for teachers and community leaders to mentor youths on the need to seek out careers and skills, and to patiently enhance these skills to get a proud footing on life.

ALSO READ: Online gig work is growing rapidly, but workers lack job protections, a World Bank report says

He urged youth who were not academically inclined to take up skills training.

“If you are a plumber, electrician or air-conditioning repairman, you earn RM50 upon arrival at any home and after you do your work, you are making upwards of RM150.

“As you keep up with technology, you earn more and you can someday own your own company.

“If you are a driver or delivery rider, this would be impossible,” he added.

Civil servant Hisyam Yusuf, 35, who works part-time as an ehailing driver, admitted that it has been difficult to compete with other drivers during peak hours.

ALSO READ: Why school leavers rather join the gig economy

“So many drivers would be out on the streets to reap the peak-hour rates.

“Add traffic congestion and passengers who cancel their requests while we are on our way there, and it becomes difficult to earn a stable income from ehailing,” he said, urging youths not to opt for low-skilled jobs in the gig economy in search of quick money.

“This will hamper your long-term career prospects,” he said.

Another gig driver, Moses Chin, 29, said when ehailing started several years ago, the income was lucrative, even for part-timers.

ALSO READ: Sticking with the current gig economy until something better comes around

“When I started five years ago, I could earn about RM1,000 per week if I drove consistently during weekends and nights,” he said.

However, he said the different pricing structures used by ride-sharing companies, including rates during rush hour and weekends, currently do not favour drivers.

“Sometimes, when I wait in Komtar during peak hours, I can only get one or two trips per hour because there are so many other drivers available in the same area,” said Chin, who drives part-time at night and during weekends to supplement his income as a technician.

“For school leavers who want to take this up full-time, think twice. You’ll regret your decision,” said Chin, urging them to instead find high-value and high-skilled jobs.

ALSO READ: Guidelines needed, govt told

Newly married Iqbal Syamil Hamdan, 24, became an ehailing driver after he was retrenched last year.

“I was clueless when I got retrenched last year. Looking for a new job is so difficult.

“I knew I had to do something, and working as an ehailing driver gave me the best option to continue earning an income.

“But I know I can’t do this forever,” said Iqbal, who now earns about RM1,500 per month as a full-time ehailing driver after deducting all expenses.


During the Johor state election, there were talk ehailing companies, particularly Grab, were struggling to meet profit forecast due to low margin and high cost of operations. 

They had to cut cost by 30% within short number of years. It means slashing the driver's commission and increase charges to customer. Increase commission limit the viability of the second option.

Then caretaker MB of Johor, Dato Hasni campaigned to promise for a youth employment program. He commented that gig economy is not a permanent career. 

It brought an aggresive response from Syed Saddiq, who was preaching gig economy as a new way of making a living suitable to the psyche of his generation.  Maszlee Malek defended it to appeals to the young voters.

Subsequently one after another ehailing company and online click and pay businesses were crashing to meet the brick and mortar reality.

It was complimenting, but sad, to be able to  have the foresight to anticipate situation and proven to be right. 

Seriously hope PMX do not be lost, but do a major rethink for economy rakyat

It is something needed in this tough times in which the post-Covid economic challenges is on extended time that could match the Great Depression. 

That was preceding and post World War II. God forbid, the Ukraine-Russia war do not escalate into the currently talked about NATO-Russia War. 

If European countries and superpowers align themselves and force on neutral countries to pick sides, one is talking about escalation to World War III.    

With nation's debt inherited from three post BN administration reaching RM1.5 trillion and post GE-15 political stability looking increasingly short-lived, the option forward seemed to be getting more limited.

But the people need to be fed, housed, schooled, and employed to continue living. The youth needs a future to hold on to.

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