The Delhi government recently announced that they have made a decision to provide free public transport for women in the city, but will this be received well by the general public and how will it affect women, especially working women? A 2011 census data report aggregated by the Centre for Diet and Activity Research, a research unit at the University of Cambridge discovered that 45 percent of working women do not travel for work, they work from their own homes.
Across the country, walking and taking the bus is the most common mode of transport for Indian women, while Indian men have more options like walking, the bus, cycling, riding a scooter and a motorbike. While this can reflect the fact that women have lower rates of asset ownership as compared to men, however, this could also mean that women travel shorter distances to work than men. This is what is known as the gender commuting gap and it is a global phenomenon and not just relevant to India and one of the reasons for this is that more women than men are primary caregivers and stay at home rather than go out to work. "This gender commuting gap may be linked to the gender wage gap, which also really opens up after the arrival of children in the family. If women choose to work closer to home because of caring responsibilities, they may be less likely to find a job well matched to their skills or with a high-paying employer," stated the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Cheap bus travel would enable them to better access to transport
On the other hand, another study found that women tend to take slower modes of transport than men because they are cheaper and similarly, a 2011 World Bank study conducted in the city of Mumbai revealed that "cheap bus travel would enable them to better access the local trains which in turn could connect them to better-paying jobs in South and Central Mumbai." Throughout India, buses are more popular with Indian women than trains, the only exception remains Mumbai where both men and women equally make use of local trains. However, will Delhi women move out of their homes due to better access to public transport services? Well, only time will tell if money was the obstacle for women or is there a deeper social issue that simply cannot be solved by taking money out of the equation.
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