Making a living on the road

How Indonesian women are making a living on the road
How Indonesian women are making a living on the road

Recent visits to the Far East as well as African continent have demonstrated that hitchhiking remains a popular means of transport.

But whilst dozens of people with outstretched thumbs lined my route from Uhmslanga to Durban, it was the mothers with babes on their backs, risking life and limb in the car-frenzied city of Jakarta, that really got my attention. I was to learn they were making a living on the road.

Risks and dangers

As our air-conditioned, upmarket taxi exited a central city highway, my eyes were drawn in the fading evening light to a line of people stood on the roadside. All were appealing to the passing traffic to stop. “Are they hitchhiking?” I asked my colleague and friend Ngiam Tee Woh, who was travelling with me as part of a Training Gateway Education mission.

“Yes, they are” he replied. But before he had chance to speak again I had interrupted him; I couldn’t quite believe what I was witnessing. “But they don’t stand a chance of getting a lift. In this light, with all this traffic it’s way too dangerous. And is that a mother with a baby on her back?!”

By now there was incredulity in my voice. “Yes, that’s a mother with her baby and they will get a lift,” Tee Woh assured me. “In fact some will get several lifts!”

And as I began to wonder whether their activity was driven by some form of prostitution, my wiser friend explained what was really happening.

Making a living on the road

“In this part of the city centre” he continued, “heavy fines are imposed if cars have fewer than three people in them after 5.30pm. So all these entrepreneurial ‘hitchhikers’ are known as jockeys. They are making up the critical number and charging for their service. “And of course, women with a baby are particularly popular with solo drivers, because a car with one person suddenly becomes a car with three. No penalty!”

Key Learning Points: Local rules and regulations create circumstances and opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop new products and services. So what’s happening  in your ‘world’ and how might you take advantage of laws that affect the behaviour of others?

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