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Didi Chuxing

Didi Chuxing says it employs 3.9 million retired soldiers as drivers, easing China’s jobless veterans problem

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 July, 2018, 7:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 July, 2018, 8:17am

Didi Chuxing, China’s ride hailing giant, employs around 3.9 million military veterans as drivers, according to a report co-authored by Didi and the China Veterans Employment and Entrepreneurship Service Association.

The number of retired People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers working as Didi drivers represents up to 6.8 per cent of the total number of retired soldiers in the country, the report said, adding that the sharing economy has proved it can help solve the long term problem of Chinese veterans finding work after they finish military service.

Experts say it is often difficult for veterans to transition from military to civilian life because many private businesses don’t require the skills of retired soldiers, which focus on martial arts and combat. As a result, retired soldiers usually need training before they can take on jobs in the private sector.

China has 57 million veterans and the numbers grow significantly each year as the government seeks to cut the size of the armed forces by 300,000 to help build a leaner and more efficient fighting force. After several large-scale protests last year in which veterans demanded better retirement welfare, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to tackle the issue.

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The report found that retired soldiers working for Didi receive high passenger ratings on the platform, with 98 per cent of bookings processed by these drivers getting a five-star (out of five) review. That can partially be attributed to the military training drivers receive, with about 57 per cent of veteran drivers having more than 10 years driving experience, 9 per cent higher than the average of all drivers on the platform.

Globally, Didi is not the only ride hailing firm to hire veterans as drivers. US-based Uber Technologies launched the UberMILITARY initiative in September 2014, aiming to enrol 50,000 US military veterans as drivers within 18 months, according to an Uber statement.

The monthly average income of retired soldiers who drive for the Didi platform for more than eight hours a day is 14,000 yuan (US$2,058), according to the report. That compares to the average salary for Beijing workers last year of 8,467 yuan, according to the Beijing Bureau of Statistics.

Didi, which counts tech giants Apple, Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings among its biggest shareholders, has been the dominant player in China’s ride-hailing market after pushing Uber out of the country in 2016. Didi and Uber engaged in a destructive price war for dominance in China, with Uber eventually taking an equity stake in Didi in return for exiting the market.

Last year, the Beijing-based company handled 7.4 billion rides, compared with 4 billion trips for Uber.