Uber gears up for part-timers in Singapore

Mr Chan Park pointed to a shortfall of cabs during peak hours, saying that in just a year, the number of Uber passengers has climbed from the “tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands”.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

About 45 per cent of drivers for Uber work fewer than 10 hours a week and probably see it as a way to supplement their incomes, said the car booking app, which wants to interest more people to be part-time drivers.

With trends heading towards part-time or flexible work, and demand for rides set to rise, Uber said part of its discussions with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is to look at mobilising resources when they are needed.

"During peak hours, there is always a shortfall of cabs and the question is how to get more cars on the road to cater to this peak demand," said Mr Chan Park, general manager for South-east Asia, Uber.

Uber thinks it can entice certain segments of the population, for instance retirees, to take up part-time driving. It intends to attract this group by promoting the idea on the ground via sessions with groups.

It believes this would appeal to the elderly, as they are looking for more flexibility "when it comes to when and how long they work while still making a good living".

Mr Chan said: "For most people, driving for Uber is not even a part-time job. It's just driving an hour or two a day, here or there, to help pay the bills.

"Cars are one of the most expensive assets a typical family buys and maintains, yet they sit unused 96 per cent of the time."

On the other side of the equation, demand is set to rise, said Uber, especially with the rising trend of people making bookings just for the "first or last mile connectivity" to and from their homes.

About 25 per cent of trips here start or end at MRT stations, it said.

In just a year, the number of passengers has climbed from the "tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands", and the number of drivers from thousands to tens of thousands, said Mr Chan, although he declined to give specific numbers.

UberX and GrabCar are private car hire services, with rates that are similar to those of taxis, or sometimes lower.

GrabCar, too, pointed out that its drivers meet demand that could otherwise not be met due to insufficient taxis .

Mr Lim Kell Jay, regional head of GrabCar, said it provides drivers with information on demand hot spots and peak demand timings to match supply with demand.

A fairly typical example is someone like Mr Mohammad Ashiq Kassim, who used to be a full-time GrabCar driver before he got a job in sales. He continues to drive, but part-time.

"It supplements my income and, at the same time, I have transport for myself - the car pays for itself. I take a few bookings here and there, it covers my expenses and I'm done," said Mr Mohammad, who uses a rental car.

In the long term, such an initiative to mitigate the labour crunch - which also offers opportunities to the unemployed - is inevitable, say human resource experts.

"Disruptive technology (which changes traditional markets in an innovative manner) is uncovering a lot of areas for people to better use their assets and time. And it is a good solution to mitigate the labour crunch,"said Mr David Ang of Human Capital Singapore.

"Increasingly, a lot of mid-level executives are vulnerable. After losing their jobs, they may find it difficult to get back into one. For them, driving can be a way to supplement their income."


This article was first published on Jan 1, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.