Hong Kong’s government should set up a professional taxi course to attract more young people into the industry, a research team at the Polytechnic University has suggested.
A survey conducted by the university’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Department last year found that the average age of taxi drivers was 51-60, and that their average income had fallen since 2011.
Associate Professor Hung Wing-tat, who led the PolyU study, said that young people shun the profession because they believe that drivers’ incomes are too low and there is no room for professional advancement.
According to Hung, however, “taxis can do a lot of business… present legislation allows [drivers] to offer many vehicle hire services.”
Hung suggests that the government could make the industry more appealing by instituting a two-year diploma programme for secondary school graduates to qualify as taxi drivers. He recommends that the Transportation Department exempt those enrolled on the course from the three years’ driving experience currently required to become a taxi driver.
The PolyU research group also suggested that the Transportation Department support the development of mobile apps to allow passengers to hail taxis and offer real-time traffic information to drivers.
The suggestions put forward by researchers did not address the problem of taxi licensing in Hong Kong, where an urban taxi licence is currently worth about HK$6.8 million, marginally down from a peak of HK$7.25 million earlier this year.
Since 1994, the government has not issued any new taxi licences. According to the Transport Department, this is because the current number satisfies public demand. The city has 18,000 taxis in total at present, while the number of private car hire permits in the territory is limited to just 1,500.
In the past, taxi drivers were also permit holders; but increasingly the licences are viewed as investments from which licence-holders expect lucrative returns.
Licence holders rent out their licences to drivers, whose earning are slashed by rental fees of approximately HK$1,200 per shift.