updated 10 Jan 2014, 23:04
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Thu, Jan 09, 2014
The Straits Times
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New support group for women cabbies
by Toh Yong Chuan And Joanna Seow

SINGAPORE - More women cabbies are plying the roads and they are getting their own support group.

The national association that represents taxi drivers is setting up a new interest group for them and the activities in the pipeline range from training in customer service to yoga lessons.

Officials of the association said the support group can help draw more women to be taxi drivers.

"Women should have more job options and cab driving should be one of them," said National Taxi Association executive secretary Ang Hin Kee, who is also a labour MP.

Official figures show their numbers are soaring. There were 3,126 women holding taxi vocational licences at the end of last year, a 30 per cent rise from about 2,400 in 2008, according to Land Transport Authority figures.

In the same period, the total number of such licence holders rose 9 per cent, from 91,000 to 99,600.

Still, women make up only a fraction - 3 per cent - of all current licence holders.Most are with Singapore's biggest taxi company ComfortDelGro, which has about 840 women cabbies, up 20 per cent from three years ago.

At Premier, which runs the smallest fleet - 2,100 taxis, the number of women cabbies has risen about 10 per cent in the last three years to more than 100 today.

Fear for their personal safety is the top reason women hesitate to be cabbies, said the women drivers interviewed yesterday.

Madam Doris Chong, 55, who drives at night, said she prefers waiting at the airport to picking up passengers on the road because she feels safer. "At night, there are more oddballs such as drunk or angry customers."

The association said one of the things it may look into is how to provide better protection for women cabbies.

Said cabby Foo Chi Yong, a member of the association's executive committee: "Maybe there can be special vehicles for them or a special hotline they can call for help that links them immediately to the authorities like the police."

Although cabbies have suggested installing glass partitions which separate the drivers from passengers, as is found in taxis overseas, the authorities and taxi companies have rejected the idea.

It gives tourists the impression that Singapore is unsafe, they said.

Meanwhile, the association plans to tie up with the National Trades Union Congress to hold social activities such as health talks and check-ups for the women.

The first activity is likely to be held in a month or so, with a lunchtime dialogue to get their views on the activities they want.

Women cabbies cheered having their own support group.

"It's very good to have more activities for us to meet," said Madam Irene Kee, 53, a cabby for 15 years. "We can share information about the types of customers we meet, and help each other like finding relief drivers." But 58-year-old Susan Quah, a grandmother who has been driving taxis for 20 years, believes the best way women cabbies can help themselves is " to have a good attitude".

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