Immobile Strikes for more Mobility
In Beijing, fewer and fewer taxis drivers are willing to work during peak hours. Perhaps surprisingly, at a time when demand is at its highest, drivers often choose to rest or to change shifts (Beijing drivers usually share taxis, working in alternating shifts). Facing increasing traffic congestion during those hours, drivers choose to stop their vehicles and not work. The increase of cars and significant slow-down on roads in the capital has had a direct effect on the services and businesses of the Beijing, as well as on taxi drivers and taxi users alike.
The fenziqian (份子钱), a monthly tax for taxi drivers, costs 5,157 yuan per taxi. Including car maintenance, fines, repair fees and gasoline, the total expenditure for each car amounts to approximately 9000 yuan per month. As a result, “it is then necessary to earn at least 300 yuan per day in order to not lose money”, explains Mr. Gu, a Beijing taxi driver interviewed by Sina News. Due to the current fare system, drivers typically earn only 20 yuan for every hour stuck in traffic. As a result, if it is not profitable for them to work during peak hours, they must find additional time to make up for the lost hours and their lost income. Gu notes that, “many drivers work more than 12 hours a day, even 15 hours …” Low income and long working hours leads to the resignation of Beijing drivers who are gradually replaced by drivers from the suburbs. These new drivers are often unfamiliar with Beijing and lack experience in the city. Today, this dwindling income for taxi drivers has led to strikes throughout China, placing increasing stress on the government as people are unable to find taxis when they need them. The only beneficiaries of this current predicament and system may be the taxi companies, who are able to receive fenziqian, a very lucrative and fixed income, without any risks.
In 1992, the Beijing government implemented policies to stimulate the development of private taxis (个体运营), and their number increased rapidly. In 1996, the market was regulated by the a new notification and policy (“关于加强企业营运任务承包管理工作的通知”) that detailed the adoption of fenziqian and new requirements for drivers to enter into a contract with taxi companies. To maximize their profits, large companies bought small companies little by little, monopolizing the market. In 2000, the government limited their number to 200.
According to Professor Wang Jun from the University of Political Science in China (中国政法大学), government control of the number of taxis and the mergers of companies has led to a critical taxi monopoly, allowing companies to enrich themselves while the needs of drivers and taxi users are supplanted.