National Taxi Drivers Wanted
A Kippreport article (24 May 2009) entitled, ‘Emiratis: Better Unemployed than Drive a Taxi’, said that despite the commitment of the Sharjah Public Transport Corporation to emiratisation, in five years they have received only one enquiry from an Emirati and, as yet, they have had no nationals work as taxi drivers.
Why is Taxi Driving Unattractive?
Why does taxi driving fail to attract Emiratis when, according to a recent report (6 June 2009) dispatched by Zawya, there are currently more than 89,000 unemployed UAE nationals—approximately 60,500 are registered with Tanmia and about 22,870 more are registered with the Emirates National Development Programme?
Is the unemployment benefit so high that people can afford to be choosey about jobs?
Is the salary for taxi drivers so low that driving is an unattractive occupation?
While Emiratis like driving cars is there something about the service nature of taxi driving that makes the job unappealing?
Is the drawback the fact that taxi driving is a high contact occupation involving significant communication skills and a certain proficiency in English and other languages?
The Sharjah Public Transport Corporation is disappointed at the lack of Emiratis stepping forward to the steering wheel.
At the same time there seems to be satisfaction among those who have spearheaded Emiratisation and complacency regarding the serious unemployment levels. Is the National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority (Tanmia), which is charged with aiming for balance in the labour market, unconcerned about the difficulties of attracting nationals into taxi driving?
Taxi driving is more than taking people from point ’alif (a) to point baa’ (b). Taxi drivers are often the first contact that tourists have with local people when they arrive at the international airports and shipping ports. To a large extent taxi drivers have the potential to be cultural ambassadors for the nation.
Oman For Example
One of the contrasting features of neighboring Oman is that nationals commonly drive the taxis. Omani taxi drivers look striking in their dishdashas and multicolored muzzars (turbans) and this first impression is remembered with appreciation and often noted in tourist reports.
It is good to see the Sharjah Public Transport Corporation persist with the campaign to attract nationals to their cabs. It may be worthwhile to work harder at discovering what the chief barriers are. Employing women as taxi drivers is a growing trend in Oman, India and in other parts of the world and this new service has given to female passengers a greater sense of safety and peace of mind.
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: Sharjah taxis.
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