Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Media statement by Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera, Syerleena Abdul Rashid on Friday 3rd February, in Georgetown, Penang:

Live Long and Ride Hard: Designing an Equitable Future

People who earn more live longer – such is what many would like to believe. According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), Malaysia’s average life expectancy at birth is 73.4 years in 2022. Sadly, many young men and women, while healthy, may not make it to that age. Especially with the increase of delivery or e-hailing riders, mostly aging 18 years old and younger, due to the COVID-19 pandemic when the need to provide financially for their families became their main motivation.

The pandemic brought about a sudden and rapid shift into the digital age. Many took to running online businesses that not only resulted in the surge in e-commerce, but also a tremendous increase in the supply and demand of goods, ultimately leading to the need for more e-hailing riders that increased tenfold from pre-pandemic times. Indeed, this became the saving grace for many who lost their jobs and sources of income at the time. The question is: how sustainable is this solution?

It must be made aware that being an e-hailing rider is, in fact, a high-risk job – and should be classified as such. What industry faces more deaths annually than this sector of the economy?

Designing a desired future that is both equitable and sustainable requires considerable effort from all stakeholders. Before we begin talking about money, we must ensure that every person who goes to work can return home safely.

There is now a dire need to formulate better policies to protect all e-hailing riders. The companies providing these services, such as Grab, foodpanda, Lalamove, Shopee, and courier delivery service providers, need to be a part of this process to ensure the safety of their riders, while protecting the rights and welfare of their riders. Making it mandatory for these companies to provide insurance as well as paying EPF contributions for their employees, would be the best steps forward.

Another serious issue with the increase of younger riders is when students do not return to school because they are getting paid to work as riders. We know education is the key to a better future and this is where education reforms play an important role. Providing skills based, vocational classes and financial literacy could help address this problem as well as prepare our youths for a better future.

Moving forward, this slow burn crisis that impacts many requires out-of-the-box thinking that can be rapidly implemented to make a difference in the coming weeks and months.

In the era of data and innovation, the multi-million Ringgit systems developed by e-hailing companies can be calibrated to ensure people of school-going age will be locked-out from receiving jobs until after school hours. As a further motivator, rates for these “after-school riders” can be set at a higher rate for a few hours to allow them to make up for “lost time” earning, while studying to become a higher valued human resource.

In line with this administration’s approach to open data, I call upon the Ministry of Transport and the operators that employ directly or through other agreements to publish real data of the number of accidents, serious injuries and deaths of e-hailing riders and drivers. That should be understood in a trackable format; and include the number of accidents, injuries, and deaths per 1,000 trips. This data should then track the economic cost to the country. Then, and only then, can we understand the true nature of this problem.

Imagine if a consumer can decide based on the level of safety provided by a company? Consumerism is based on voting with your feet – for this to work, it needs to be empowered with facts and real-time data. That is how the future of Malaysia as a developed and caring society should look.

When the cost of your favourite Penang char koay teow involves the life of a young rider, it is always going to be unacceptable.