6.Hengwah and Hockchew immigrants from southeastern China dominated the rickshaw trade from the end of the 19th century. For these men, majority of whom were illiterate peasants, rickshaw-pulling was an easy means of earning a livelihood since it did not call for special skills and only required coordination, physical strength and stamina. However, pullers not only had to bear with the physical strain, but also the risks of injury and even death from overexertion and mishaps. The Straits Times newspaper described rickshaw-pulling to be “the deadliest occupation in the East (and) the most degrading for human beings to pursue”.
Pullers drew the two-wheeled cart using the long shafts protruding by the wheels. The hood of the rickshaw was always down unless a passenger requested it to be up for protection against the harsh weather, or to maintain anonymity while travelling.
Pullers earned about $1 a day, and around 20 to 30 cents of that daily income went to the rickshaw rental. Some of them had a second job as construction coolies (unskilled laborers) to supplement their income.