Opposed to the European nations, mass migration has significantly contributed to building up Australia. The advent of globalisation threw up a few more challenges, and Australia adopted multiculturalism. A decade when Australian population was significantly lower than what it is in 2016, driving a taxi was perhaps not the most popular occupation that an Australian would choose. Meantime, migrants who started arriving in battalions had to find remunerative occupations to support themselves, and there were no class constraints in accepting a job so long as it could provide a reasonable livelihood.
Add to this, and corruption ingrained into the Australian taxi industry, traditional taxi drivers are faced with a piquant situation, which they possibly never envisaged.
The winds of change
As at 2016, immigrants have pervaded nearly all low paid jobs and mainly manual professions. Nevertheless, regarding pure numbers, workers born in Australia make up the majority of these occupations.
But, the case of traditional taxi drivers is different, and most chauffeurs/ cabbies are from India, and particularly from the state of Punjab. With their pleasant disposition, hard working nature and the drive to make a mark, they have today become a dominant force in the Australian taxi industry.
Should you be chatting with your driver?
The maxi taxi industry is quick to point out that India-born drivers do not speak proper English and do not engage the passengers in conversation, which according to the traditional maxi taxi industry is an accepted norm with many Australian passengers hiring a maxi taxi cabs in Melbourne. But, that argument fails to cut any ice because most people hire a taxi to get from point A to point B and discussing the day’s weather with the cab driver is hardly a priority for them. But, aside from the conversation angle, the taxi industry managed to get the regulations tightened to improve the core competencies of this ever growing number of immigrant drivers. The Taxi industry perhaps did not anticipate such a massive influx of immigrant drivers and the law cannot prevent a licensed driver from driving a taxi.
The Australian education industry played a key role
Aggressive promotion of Australian higher education, to Indians in particular also saw an influx of Indian students into Australia. Traditional taxi drivers were required to foot as much as $40,000 to obtain a taxi plate. Often, people who had enough money bought these plates and then leased it to drivers. About 50% of the fare collected therefore went to the owner of the plate, with the driver retaining the balance. This situation has now changed and with only $22,000 one can get a taxi plate.
The surging student population needs money to support them in Australia, pay the fee and meet other minimum needs. Many students found driving a taxi to be the easiest occupation they can engage in, more so because it also offered some level of flexibility compared to a regular job.
Change is a continuous process, and the ability to adapt to change will draw the line between winners and losers.