From around 10pm until the early hours of the morning, Aziz drives a private hire car through the street-lit hinterlands of Singapore. On weekdays, he shuttles from the airport to downtown condos and back. On weekends he patrols around Tanjong Pagar where the upscale bars kick out late, picking up drinkers, bar staff and other nocturnal tradespeople.
On an average night, he can book upward of S$150 (US$111). His situation, he said, is “jialat”. Jialat, a Singlish word taken from Hokkien, literally means “drained”. In his early 50s, Aziz — not his real name — was retrenched from his job in a professional services company two years ago and turned to the gig economy to make ends meet, joining hundreds of other former white-collar workers in a nocturnal demi-monde of midrange saloons and weary discontent. “Cannot retire. Cannot take my [pension],” Aziz said. “As soon as they let me take it, I’ll buy a house in Indonesia and retire there. If I stay here, what am I going to do?”