Mr Toh Kian Seng, a taxi driver of 25 years, recalls the time he first realised Covid-19 would impact his earnings.
He said, “I remember, I started work and drove around for four whole hours, but there was not a single passenger. It was my first time experiencing something like that. I thought, ‘Wow, if that’s the case, really cannot survive.’”
Delivering food with a taxi
Instead of throwing his hands up in the air in defeat, Mr Toh decided to try out something new. He heard about a new initiative where the Government was easing regulations to allow taxi drivers to participate in delivery service trials during the pandemic. This would give them an alternative source of income and alleviate the situation.
“My company asked us, ‘Who is interested to do food deliveries?’ I thought, since I can earn money and there are no passengers anyway, I said I want to do.”
With that, Mr Toh began delivering for KFC daily. Even though he had no prior experience with food delivery, the problem was quickly solved with training.
“We were given training, like how to do contactless delivery and that we must try to complete each delivery within 20 minutes.”
Nevertheless, the job came with its set of challenges. Passengers were also surprised to see a taxi driver doing food deliveries.
Mr Toh said with a laugh, “I slimmed down, you know. Because we earn $4 per hour, plus $4 per delivery, I tried my best to deliver as quickly as possible. Going to the HDB flats was straightforward but the condominiums were tricky. There’s security, and sometimes we have to change lift or buzz the owner, and still must do it within 20 minutes.”
Taxi drivers are SEPs eligible for SIRS
After Circuit Breaker ended, Mr Toh stopped delivering food and went back to driving as Singapore made inroads towards recovery. He also heard about the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS), which gives eligible self-employed persons a relief of $9000 over three payouts in 2020. However, Mr Toh ran into small hiccups with his application.
“I filled in my IRAS form wrongly. As a self-employed person, I should have filled it under Trade Income, but I did it wrongly. Luckily, I went to my MP and they referred me to NTUC for help. Later, I helped my fellow taxi drivers because they also did it wrongly. I always believe, if someone needs help, I help. I could help them because by then I understood how the process worked already.”
To date, about $1.8 billion has been paid out to about 200,000 self-employed persons in 2020!
Just Keep Driving and saving for retirement
Mr Toh continues driving his taxi daily and believes in saving for his retirement.
“My motto in life is ‘Just keep driving’. Every day, I start driving at 5.30am. I have three daughters, all grown up already. So now I try to work hard because I want to save up for my retirement. I want to take care of myself.”
We wish you the best Mr Toh, thank you for sharing your story of positivity!