For baby boomers, competition is key
A friend of mine lost his job immediately after the 1997 financial crisis and became a taxi driver. After driving all day, he said he felt “landsick,” just like a sailor is seasick after a long voyage at sea. Driving a cab is a difficult profession. The driver has to watch out for other cars, traffic signals, pedestrians, motorcycles and potential passengers. Citizens may find taxi drivers unpleasant and rough, but many are risking accidents to make money and support their families. At my friend’s taxi company, two drivers have been beaten up by drunk passengers and are currently in the hospital.
This dangerous profession is increasingly attracting middle-aged or senior drivers. Of the 287,660 registered taxi drivers in the country at the end of 2011, 31,438 were seniors over the age of 65. Ten years ago in 2001, there were only 4,302 drivers who were older than 65. The number of senior drivers continued to increase every year and surpassed 10,000 in 2005. The number went up to 20,000 in 2008, and another 10,000 were added after three years. Bus drivers are also getting increasingly older.
The National Taxi Association Joint Conference confirmed that 1,928 drivers passed the taxi license test in January and more than half, or 1,006, were over 50. This indicates that baby boomers, who were born between 1955 and 1963, are looking to switch careers upon retirement, and many get jobs as taxi drivers. Driving a taxi is not the only second career chosen by senior citizens. Lotte Mart recruited 400 seniors between the ages of 56 and 60, of which 73 had advanced degrees and over 400 had been executives.
Baby boomers are fierce competitors. When the baby boomers were growing up, a household had an average of six children. An elementary classroom had nearly 70 students and schools often offered morning and afternoon sessions. But they are also used to fulfilling their responsibilities before claiming their rights. Instead of believing that the country and society are responsible for social security, they do what they ought to do, saying, “Let’s not depend on the country or rely on our children. We can support ourselves.” This trait encourages seniors to drive taxis or work at supermarkets.
Half of the drivers at my friend’s company are over 60, and they are proud to be making money. They must have acquired formidable survival skills from the fierce competition they experienced in their overcrowded classrooms.
by Noh Jae-hyun
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.