LETTER | Although the Social Security Organisation (Socso) targeted 100,000 taxi and e-hailing drivers to register for the Self-Employment Social Security Scheme in Feb 2017, I was pleasantly surprised that 7,728 have already done so by last November.
In February 2017, Socso chief executive Datuk Seri Dr Azman Aziz said it would be compulsory for all self-employed taxi drivers to register with Socso under the Employment Injury Scheme.
Two months later, the Self Employment Social Security Bill 2017 was passed in the Dewan Rakyat empowering Socso to provide insurance for self-employed persons, starting with e-hailing and taxi drivers.
The Bill also stated that any person who contravenes these regulations is committing an offence and was liable, upon conviction, to a fine not exceeding RM10,000 or a jail term not exceeding two years or both.
In March 2017, I had expressed concerns that these drivers would have difficulty coughing out between RM157.20 to RM592.80 to register with Socso, what more to contribute on a yearly basis. The scheme was launched on June 13 that year but only 120 signed up during the first week.
This slow take-up led to Azman saying that drivers will be given until the end of 2017 to make their contributions. Those who failed to do so were told they would be barred from renewing their Public Service Vehicle licence.
Last December, Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran said all 100,000 taxi and e-hailing drivers must contribute to Socso beginning next year, as response during the one-year extension was still very low.
Will those failing to register by the new June deadline be slapped with severe penalties as announced? If so, it will be a sad day indeed for many elderly taxi drivers.
Even if the scheme is opened to all self-employed persons, it would be difficult to register more than 20,000, more so when it is now restricted to e-hailing and taxi drivers. But forcing the scheme on its recipients is totally unfair.
As it is, most taxi drivers are already living from hand-to-mouth, particularly the elderly who could not adapt to e-hailing and have to wait in queues at shopping malls and taxi stands for the remaining passengers who still use street-hailing for transport.
Nearly all taxi drivers prefer to pay much cheaper third-party insurance cover for their taxis and are prepared to risk accidental damage to their vehicles and personal injury while driving.
Although the intention is noble, the government has no business forcing them to pay for comprehensive insurance for their taxis or insure their earnings, which may be as low as a few hundred ringgit a month.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.
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