Does separating women on public transport tackle the wider problem of sexual harassment and assault, or does it merely move the problem around? How can governments combat sexual harassment on public transport without segregating transport by gender? Does the employment of women in the sector contribute to designing better solutions to improve women’s personal security in public transport and enhance their mobility? Experts on both sides of the issue debated these and other questions at a recent event on “Women as Transport Users and Transport Services Providers – What Works and What Doesn’t” hosted by the World Bank’s transport team. Data reveals that while a significant share of women all over the world experience sexual harassment on public transport, often in pandemic proportions, the majority of cases goes unreported.
The session was conceived to explore development implications of women-only transport; highlight why laws matter for women in the transport sector; and better prepare World Bank staff to discuss these two topics with their respective clients.
The women-only transport concept regularly catches the media’s attention and has been debated before. Those who favor providing women with the option of gender segregated transport say it provides much-needed safety for women and facilitates their access to income-earning opportunities and various services. Those against segregation say it further reinforces gender inequalities and entrenches sexist attitudes.
Technology is transforming transport with a speed and scale that are hard to comprehend. The transport systems of tomorrow will be connected, data-driven, shared, on-demand, electric, and highly automated. Ideas are moving swiftly from conception, research and design, testbed to early adoption, and, finally, mass acceptance. And according to projections, the pace of innovation is only going to accelerate.
Autonomous cars are expected to comprise about 25% of the global market by 2040. Flying taxis are already tested in Dubai. Cargo drones will become more economical than motorcycle delivery by 2020. Three Hyperloop systems are expected by 2021. Maglev trains are already operating in Japan, South Korea, and China, and being constructed or planned in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the USA. Blockchain technology has already been used to streamline the procedures for shipping exports, reducing the processing and handling times for key documents, increasing efficiency and reliability,
In the Andean mountain range in the province of Arequipa, women can be found working on rural road maintenance projects.
Meanwhile, back in the capital, members of Peru’s local and national government, as well as representatives from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, gathered in Lima at the “Experiences of Women in Rural Roads” conference to discuss the role of women in the transport sector.
The event highlighted women’s participation in rural road construction and maintenance as a significant step toward gender equality: it gave participants a chance to discuss the impact of these projects, share lessons learned, and inform a Gender Action Plan for the ongoing Support to the Subnational Transport Program. Indigenous women from rural communities in in Arequipa, Junín, Huánuco, and the Amazon attended the event and emphasized the importance of these projects in the development of their communities and the role of these employment opportunities in their own lives, their self-esteem, and their aspirations for a better future.
Since 2001, the World Bank Group (WBG) and the Peruvian government have worked together to promote women’s participation in rural transport projects, expanding employment opportunities for women in rural areas. The Peru Decentralized Rural Transport Project has seen the female participation in rural road maintenance microenterprises reach almost 30%.
While bus services are often planned and coordinated by public authorities, many cities delegate day-to-day operations to private companies under a concession contract. Local government agencies usually set fares and routes; private operators, on the other hand, are responsible for hiring drivers, running services, maintaining the bus fleet, etc. Within this general framework, the specific terms and scope of the contract vary widely depending on the local context.
Bus concessions are multimillion-dollar contracts that directly affect the lives of countless passengers every day. When done right, they can foster vigorous competition between bidders, improve services, lower costs, and generate a consistent cash flow. However, too often the concessions do not deliver on their promise and there is a perception across much of Latin America that authorities have been unable to manage these processes to maximize public benefits.
As several Latin American cities are getting ready to renew their bus concessions—including major urban centers like Bogotá, Santiago de Chile, and São Paulo—now is a good time to look back on what has worked, what has not, and think about ways to improve these arrangements going forward.
Transport is not gender-neutral. This was the key message that came out of a high-level gender discussion co-hosted by the World Bank and the World Resources Institute during the recent Transforming Transportation 2018 conference, which was held in Washington DC between January 11-12, 2018. This was the first time in the 15-year history of this annual event that a plenary session looked specifically at the gender dimensions of transport.
Women represent the largest share of public transport users around the world, yet they face many barriers that limit their mobility. The numbers speak for themselves. Some 80% of women are afraid of being harassed while using public transport. In developing countries, safety concerns and limited access to transport reducing the probability of women participating in the labor market by 16.5%, with serious consequences on the economy: the global GDP could grow by an additional $5.8 trillion if the gender gap in male and female labor force participation is decreased by 25% by 2025 (International Labour Organization). Women and men have different mobility needs and patterns, yet transport policies for most countries remain unrelentingly gender-blind.
Female participation in the transport sector—as operators, drivers, engineers, and leaders—remains low. According to Harvard Business Review, “women make up 20% of engineering graduates, but nearly 40% of them either quit or never enter the profession.” As a result, the transport industry remains heavily male-dominated, which only makes it harder for women service users to make themselves heard, and limits incentives for the sector to become more inclusive.
The gender plenary at Transforming Transportation brought together five women and two men on the panel to discuss these issues and highlight practical solutions used in their work to ensure inclusive transport.
Exponential progress in how we collect, process and use data is fundamentally changing our societies and economies. But the new digital economy depends fundamentally on a very physical enabler. Amazon and Alibaba would not exist without efficient ways to deliver products worldwide, be it by road or ship or drone. The job you applied for through Skype may require travel to London or Dubai, where you’ll expect to get around easily.
In fact, as the backbone of globalization, digitization is increasing the need to move people and goods around the planet. Mounting pressure on transportation as economies grow is leading to unsustainable environmental and safety trends. Transport needs are increasingly being met at the cost of future generations.
Can the digital revolution, which depends so much on efficient global and local mobility, also help us rethink transportation itself? To be a part of the solution to issues such as climate change, poverty, health, public safety, and the empowerment of women, the answer must be yes. Transport must go beyond being an enabler of the digital economy to itself harnessing the power of technology.
Worldwide, e-commerce has experienced explosive growth over the past decade, including in developing countries. The 2015 Global Retail E-Commerce Index ranks several of the World Bank’s client countries among the 30 most important markets for e-commerce (China ranks 2nd, Mexico 17th, Chile 19th, Brazil 21st, and Argentina 29th). As shown in a 2017 report from Ipsos, China, India, and Indonesia are among the 10 countries with the highest frequency of online shopping in the world, among online shoppers. Although growth in e-commerce in these countries is sometimes hindered by structural deficiencies, such as limitations of banking systems, digital payment systems, secure IT networks, or transport infrastructure, the upcoming technological advances in mobile phones and payment and location systems will trigger another wave of growth. This growth will likely lead to more deliveries and an increase in freight volume in urban areas.
In this context, the Bank has been working with the cities of Sao Paulo and Bangalore to develop a new tool that helps evaluate how different transport policies and interventions can impact e-commerce logistics in urban areas (GiULia). Financed by the Multidonor Sustainable Logistics Trust Fund, the tool serves as a platform to promote discussion with our counterparts on a subject that is often neglected by city planners: urban logistics. Decision-making on policies and regulations for urban logistics has traditionally been undertaken without sufficient consideration for economic and environmental impacts. For instance, restrictions on the size and use of trucks in cities can cause a number of side effects, including the suburbanization of cargo, with warehouses and trucks located on the periphery of cities, far from consumers, or the fragmentation of services between multiple carriers, which may lead to more miles traveled, idle truck loads, and inefficiencies.
Differentiating between effective and nominal access
A couple of months ago, one of our urban development colleagues wrote about the gap between effective and nominal access to water infrastructure services. She explained that while many of the households in the study area were equipped with the infrastructure to supply clean water, a large number of them do not use it because of its price. She highlighted a “simple fact: it is not sufficient to have a service in your house, your yard, or your street. The service needs to work and you should be able to use it. If you can’t afford it or if features—such as design, location, or quality—prevent its use, you are not benefiting from that service.” To address this concern, the water practice has been developing ways to differentiate between “effective access” and “nominal access”—between having access to an infrastructure or service and being able to use it.
In transport, too, we have been exploring similar issues. In a series of blog posts on accessibility, we have looked at the way accessibility tools—the ability to quantify the opportunities that are accessible using a transit system—are reframing how we understand, evaluate, and plan transport systems. We have used this method that allows us to assess the effectiveness of public transport in connecting people to employment opportunities within a 60-minute commute.
Incorporating considerations of cost
Yet, time is not the only constraint that people face when using public transport systems. In Bogota, for example, the average percentage of monthly income that an individual spends on transport exceeds 20% for those in the lowest income group. In some parts of the city, this reaches up to 28%—well above the internationally acceptable level of affordability of 15%.
A World Bank study in Argentina highlighted that women “have more complex travel patterns, travel more, and have more travel needs at off-peak hours, which are often not related to work and associated with fixed destinations (e.g. child care).” As a result, they are constrained to smaller commutes and, by association, fewer employment opportunities. In addition to using public transport at different times, frequencies, and for alternate purposes, data from other countries also indicates that many women face significant security challenges when using public transport.
To dig deeper on this and identify what kind of complementary interventions could help ensure mass transit investments bring women the best accessibility benefits, we conducted preliminary research in Mexico City with support from the World Bank Youth Innovation Fund.
Our primary objective was to figure out what encourages or inhibits women’s use of mass transit systems, and to understand how these systems influence their decisions to find employment or better employment.
Women’s economic equality is good for business. It is clear that women play a fundamental role in building and sustaining the world economy.
They offer a powerful source of economic growth and opportunity. Women contribute not only to the formal economy, but also through the valuable and generally unpaid tasks of caregiving and homemaking. It has been proven that better opportunities in education, health, employment, and policies lead to better well being for women, their communities and — in turn — the economic and social well-being of a country.
However, only recently has the relationship of gender and infrastructure — more specifically, transport — and the role it plays in a country’s social and economic well-being been addressed.
Transport networks are one of the most important elements of a country’s infrastructure, and they are key to reducing poverty and promoting equality. A country’s transport infrastructure generally centers on enabling the supply of goods, connecting and providing access to people, services and trade, with the objective of bringing economic prosperity to a nation. However, it has been only in the past five to ten years that infrastructure projects have started to include gender awareness as part of their investment decisions.
As women become even more central to a country’s economy, addressing their transportation needs takes on an essential role in promoting economic growth and prosperity.