The problem of mobility in an ageing society: how to deal with an ageing driver population?

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2021)


ageing society, mobility in depopulated areas, Public Transportation, ridesharing, traffic safety


Objectives of this study
This study examines the issue of the mobility service workforce in an ageing society. In particular, the paper will provide some insight into the problems arising from the ageing of drivers by examining the situation in Japan and examples of how these problems are being addressed.

This study uses driving licence statistics and traffic accident statistics in Japan to identify the problems associated with the ageing of the mobility service workforce. Simultaneously, we report on a ridesharing service in Nakatombetsu, Esashi-gun, Hokkaido, Japan as a case study of mobility service in a depopulated area with a highly aged population, and on safety education for volunteer drivers.

An analysis of the number of accidents per million kilometres for taxis, the main secondary transport provider in Japan, shows that over the 30-year period from 1985 to 2015, the number of accidents per million kilometres increased from 0.890 to 1.401. In contrast, the number of accidents per million kilometres for all vehicles fell from 1.746 to 0.797. In other words, the accident rate has reversed, with taxis, which by their nature are required to drive more safely and have a second-class licence that is more difficult to obtain, being more prone to accidents. This phenomenon may be occurring due to the ageing of the taxi driver workforce, the ageing of the vehicles used and the deterioration of working conditions.
To address this problem, the taxi industry has adopted a recruitment strategy aimed at rejuvenating its workforce. Efforts to increase the recruitment of new graduates and to improve retention rates through income security are expanding.
Alternatively, in depopulated areas where the population is ageing, there is an increasing number of vulnerable road users who are no longer able to benefit from motorisation because of the decline of public transport and the surrender of driving licences due to ageing. However, the supply of taxis in depopulated areas is inadequate and is becoming an obstacle to daily life. To address this, some areas are trying to ensure mobility using ride-sharing schemes. A typical example is the "Nakatombetsu Rideshare" in Nakatombetsu, Edasuki-gun, Hokkaido, which uses the Uber-platform and relies on volunteer drivers to operate the service.
Nakatombetsu is an ageing town and the volunteer drivers are made up of relatively old residents. This is partly because they cannot earn a living by driving, as they are only allowed to collect the actual costs. Volunteer drivers are trained to drive safely to improve their operational safety. This activity includes driving lessons at the Nakatombetsu town driving school and the creation of a map listing all the places in the area that need attention.

As Japan's population ages, so too do the people responsible for mobility, and this has negative implications. This study examines two points in particular. The first is the safety problem caused by the ageing of taxi drivers, who are the main source of secondary transport. In addition, the second is the ageing of volunteer drivers in depopulated areas due to the lack of mobility providers. Efforts to address these issues exist and are achieving some success.
However, the lack of mobility service workers and the ageing of the workforce, especially in depopulated areas, is a structural problem. Unless some form of connection can be made between being a mobility service worker and earning a living, it will be difficult to move away from the form of volunteering by pensioners who do not need to earn a living. Furthermore, this problem cannot be solved simply by making it paid. This is because the demand for mobility in depopulated areas is much smaller than in urban areas. In order to break out of this situation, it is necessary to re-design the nature of the local economy in depopulated areas.

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Concéption Tommaso Pardi
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