“Where I work is strongly determined by work timings, transport to and from office, and time taken and distance to get to office.” ~ Working woman, Mumbai, India
“I take my kids to tuition center and prefer those within walking distance. If the tuition center is far away, then auto rickshaw is more suitable due to lack of bus service.” ~ Housewife, Mumbai, India
We often heard statements like these during a survey we conducted in Mumbai, India on the role of transport in shaping women’s access to economic and social opportunities. They reflect the different mobility choices and experiences women face compared to men, and how these mobility patterns have evolved in India’s largest city.
There is increasing global recognition that women experience mobility differently from men., influencing not only their individual quality of life, but also that of their families.
The study conducted in Mumbai documents the differences in men and women’s mobility patterns and the changes in these patterns as the city has developed. It also explores whether the lack of access to mass transit limits women’s labor force participation in the Greater Mumbai Region (GMR).
Lack of access to transport and mobility shape women’s access to public services—especially to education and health.
Four results emerge from the study:
First, the differences in mobility patterns of men and women reflect differences in the division of labor within households. The study finds persistent differences in the mobility patterns of men and women. These differences partly reflect differences in household responsibilities and labor force participation rates. In 2019, only one-fifth of women in Mumbai were employed. In the same year, 80 percent of men’s trips were work related compared to only 17 percent for women. Half of women’s trips were for shopping or transporting children to and from schools or tuition centers.
Second, men and women choose different modes of transport even when commuting for the same purpose and this impacts their access to opportunities. Argentina and elsewhere. Several factors could be driving this choice to use slower modes of transport— safety and security considerations, the need for flexibility to combine work trips with household chores, and lack of access to transport assets within the household.In 2019, 39 percent of women reported walking and 32 percent reported using public transit (rail or public bus) as their primary commute mode. In contrast, only 28 percent of men reported walking and 24 percent reported using public transit. Women were also more likely to commute by auto-rickshaw (14 percent) than by two-wheeler (9 percent) or car (4 percent). This finding implies that ; a finding mirrored in studies of
Third, the differences and the evolution of these patterns point to an implicit “pink tax” on female mobility. Mass transit within the GMR appears not to have kept pace with the needs and expectations of the population. The fall in satisfaction with bus and rail transit has increased the use of two-wheelers and auto-rickshaws by both men and women. However, adoption of private, and arguably faster, modes of transport has been slower for women. Furthermore, men have shifted largely to commuting to work by two-wheelers, and women shifted to using auto-rickshaws or taxis, which tend to be more expensive. Thus, there appears to be a surcharge or “pink tax” on women’s mobility.
Fourth, a transport system that allows women to combine domestic duties and childcare responsibilities with being economically active, can enhance women’s likelihood to participate in the labor force. The study reveals that. In 2019, 31 percent of surveyed women reported commuting as a barrier to working. Of these, less than 4 percent indicated that transport was a commuting barrier for work. In contrast, 13 percent said that childcare responsibilities were a barrier to commuting for work, and 19 percent indicated that domestic duties were a barrier to commuting for work.
A transportation system that does not explicitly recognize gender differences in usage can exacerbate gender inequalities and limit women’s access to economic opportunities
Policy measures focused on improving public transit and walkability in Mumbai and provision of daycare facilities at key locations could differentially benefit women. Notably:
- Enhancing the walkability of Mumbai city by creating a walking friendly street network and providing affordable micro-mobility solutions in Mumbai (like scooters and bicycles).
- Improving the reliability, convenience, safety and frequency of bus and rail services.
- Taking a network approach to the routing and timing of the rail and bus systems and flexible tariff structures to better integrate public transit options and make public transit a more attractive option.
- Providing safe and affordable childcare services at suitable locations in Mumbai (possibly at or close to rail stations).