Following a growing quantity and quality of research on gendered travel patterns, systematic inequalities in urban mobility planning, and the impacts on gender equality are becoming ever clearer. However, lack of data continues to obstruct targeted action. New research from Vietnam reveals the global nature of these gendered travel patterns, and repercussions for urban planners across the world.
Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s largest city and economic hub, with its population growing at 2.1% a year. This rapid growth is also prompting shifts in mobility patterns, as rising household income is enabling many more families to afford cars.
This shift has potential implications for women’s access to transport services, as changes in urban planning priorities respond to perceived mobility changes.
‘Connecting urban mobility and gender roles: A case study from Hochiminh City Vietnam’, authored by Thị Ngọc Tú LÊ from Hoa Sen University, explores this relationship between urban mobility and gender roles, and provides guidance for transport planning.
The findings reveal clear gendered differences in travel patterns, with women travelling less than men, particularly for work/professional related trips. According to the study, men spend on average 1.65 hours a day on travel for work, while women spend an average of 1.2 hours. This reflects gender differences in employment and caregiving, with women occupying part time work- often to accommodate paid and unpaid labour demands- with implications for the transit services used and timetables of travel.
These disparities are more pronounced for married women living with their families. The study underscores the disadvantages women face in urban mobility compared to men. Indeed, the findings echo those of the recently published Gender Equality Index from the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), which found that persistent imbalance in unpaid domestic labour and care work continues to disadvantage women’s career opportunities and their leisure time - leading the Index to assert that “access to transport options is key to gender equality”.
The study from Hochiminh City has important implications for data collection and analysis in Europe, where despite growing recognition of the necessity for more inclusive and gender-sensitive planning, there remains significant gaps in data on gendered travel patterns and experiences of transport.
Based on the findings, the study asserts that new mobility-transport systems which include gender-sensitive transport investment planning can play a role as a means of unlocking women’s economic potential.
However, such approaches demand clear quantitative and qualitative understanding of mobility. This study underscores previous research which shows that the percentage of women choosing public buses, bikes, and walking is higher than that of men. However, in Hochiminh City, like many cities around Europe, urban mobility infrastructures are not routinely built to prioritise - or even accommodate - these modes, therefore underpinning structural gendered transport inequality.
Recommendations from the study include:
- Make public transport more accessible and affordable for women by offering flexible fares, subsidies, discounts, or vouchers for low-income and vulnerable people.
- Adapt transport routes and schedules to match women's travel patterns.
- Active mobility should support women's access to economic opportunities by linking them to markets, services, education, health care, and social networks.
- Have more facilities and incentives for cyclists and pedestrians, such as bike parking, bike sharing, electric bike, pedestrian crossings, sidewalks, and traffic signal.
- Raise the profile of cycling to prompt socio-cultural shifts in attitudes towards active mobility and perceived accessibility of cycling.
Read the full study here.
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