Taxis helping to drive down Yemeni unemployment
In a country where unemployment is at 60 percent, there is one place where men can still find work: behind the wheel of a taxi. In the past 17 years, 46,000 licenses have been issued to taxi drivers and there is no end in sight.
The Automatic Issuance Center, which works under the Ministry of Interior has set no ceiling on the number of license issued, either to private or commercial vehicles.
“This is an attempt to limit unemployment,” Colonel Abdulkareem Al-Jaefi, the general manager of the traffic department in Sana’a said.
If a Yemeni wants to drive a taxi, all he has to do is hold a valid driver’s license.
The price of a taxi license is YR5,000, or around $23.
Isam Al-Usaimi drives a taxi in Sana’a. Eight years ago he graduated from a vocational institute, learning how to install air conditioners. He couldn’t find any work. Then, four years ago, he started driving a taxi.
“I borrowed YR1 million [around $4,500] to buy a taxi and eke out a living for myself and my family,” Al-Usaimi said. Now, he makes around YR2,500 a day, less than $12. During holidays, he can earn up to YR9,000, almost $42.
Al-Usaimi owns his taxi, but other drivers rent taxis for around YR2,000, about $10 or YR3,000, about $15, a day.
Some taxi drivers hold other, part-time jobs to supplement their income. It’s common also for university students to drive taxis when they’re not in class.
Ramzi Abdulla, a university student and part-time taxi driver, says that he has few options other than driving a cab.
“I have [no other job] I can do. I can’t expect to be employed immediately after my graduation.”
All of these taxis on the streets have unintended consequences. Traffic piles up during rush hour. In areas of the city where the streets are particularly busy—like Hadda Street and Bab Al- Yemen—cars slow to a crawl.
The number of taxis on the road makes it harder for people to get from place to place, Jameel Dahaq, who lives in the Musaik neighborhood, says.
“I’m always late to work,” he said. “I’m frustrated. I can’t get to my office early. Taking a taxi doesn’t help.”
Students graduating from secondary schools and universities can’t find work elsewhere, Ahmed Saeed Shamakh, an economics expert who works at the Yemen Central Bank, says. Driving a taxi requires no schooling and relatively little investment.
As it stands, there is no mechanism in place to limit or even keep track of the number of drivers that are on Sana’a’s streets, either commercial or private. On top of those 46,000 taxi licenses, there are around 125,000 private cars in the city, at least, and thousands of buses and motorcycles.