– by VIDYA MAHAMBARE / SOWMYA DHANARAJT+ T-
While cab-hailing services have helped working women, their expansion may increase congestion and pollution
Only around one in five women in the working age takes up paid work in urban India. In China, the number three in five. One key determinant of women’s ability to work, namely, the role of travel mobility — the available modes of transport, time and distance, convenience, and the cost of travelling — remains unexplored in the Indian context.
Women tend to have lower travel accessibility than men for two reasons.
First, married women have less bargaining power in terms of a residential location. Second, men have a far greater access to personal vehicles such as cars and two-wheelers which are faster and more convenient modes of travel. As per the Census 2011, in urban India one in four men travel to workplace either by a two-wheeler or a four-wheeler compared to one in 10 women. There is a clear gender divide in terms of access to personal vehicles which seems to be narrowing only marginally over the years.
Given that women continue to be primarily responsible for household work and childcare, longer commute tends to push even educated women out of work. However, in recent years the spread of convenient tech-enabled cab services such as Uber and Ola have begun to provide an alternative to personal vehicles. Unlike traditional taxis or auto-rickshaws, the new age cabs offer door-to-door service, and are more comfortable. In a recent study more than one-third of women using Uber in India said that it has increased their mobility and 28 per cent said it helps them to reach places not served by public transport and enhances their independence.
About the authors:
Mahambare is Professor – Economics, Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai, and Dhanaraj is Assistant Professor – Economics, Madras School of Economics.