Mobility is the right to move to have access to key activities that are essential for survival. It is at the backbone of economic and social development as it enables individuals to access services, employment, education, and all living requirements. Gender and mobility are tied in an intricate manner. The last few decades have seen a widening of the understanding of this relationship. The vast literature on gender and mobility have pointed out the significantly profound influence they have on each other and have highlighted the need to introduce a gender-based perspective in the analysis and layout of mobility plansHanson, S. Gender and mobility: New approaches for informing sustainability. Gend. Place Cult. 2010.. Transport and mobility policies should have as a prime goal the achievement of efficient and sustainable modes of transport. Under the scope of mobility, women are not merely passive users of transport services but are rather the most active recipients of sustainable mobility (public transport, biking, etc.)Cassetta, E. et al. Emerging technological trajectories and new mobility solutions. A large-scale investigation on transport-related innovative start-ups and implications for policy. Transp. Res. … Continue reading.
The 5ht and 6th International Conferences on Women’s Issues in Transportation address gender differences in regards to access to transportation and mobility as well as all aspects of women’s travel and transportation. Men and women have different experiences of mobility that bank on the geographical location, accessibility and affordability of transportation, social stratification, time availability, safety, and security. Urban mobility has changed drastically in recent years. First due to the development of new technologies in transport that gave way to more sustainable modes of travel. Second, the Covid-19 crisis is having a pernicious impact on all areas of life including mobilityGonzález-Sánchez,G. et al. Challenges and Strategies for Post-COVID-19 Gender Equity and Sustainable Mobility. Sustainability, 2021..
The current pandemic and governments’ measures to contain it have had as an impact, among many others, the decrease in people’s mobility. Lockdowns, travel restrictions, business, and school closures, as well as voluntary social distancing, that have been imposed from March 2020, have resulted in the slump of mobility. It has been duly noted that the effect of the Covid-19 on mobility was unequal between men and women. The pandemic has deteriorated the efforts to address socio-economic inequalities that existed well before the outbreak of the virus. Women are, evidently, one of the groups that are most affected by the Covid-19 crisisMoslem, S. et al. Best-worst method for modelling mobility choice after COVID-19: Evidence from Italy. Sustainability 2020..
Stay-at-home measures that were enforced in several countries were often accompanied by school closures. The latter has directly impacted women’s mobility. School closures translated into the opening of the mobility gender gapCaselli, F. et al. The disproportionate impact of lockdowns on women and the young, Voxeu.org. 2021.. The gender mobility gap has been a widely treated topic in the context of women’s mobility and women’s studies since the 1960s in the U.S. It is a study that bears a gender perspective to look into how women move around the city. This has revealed that men and women have different practices and experiences of mobility patterns. Under the current pandemic, it is essential to understand the travel patterns of men and women to comprehend the crisis’ impact on gender mobility.
The prime goal of this paper is to consider how the pandemic affected women and men differently in terms of mobility. This summary report relies on the existing literature to tackle the issue of the heterogeneous impact of the Covid crisis on gender mobility. Under the following headings, this paper will serve to review the literature on the topic at hand to look at three issues. First, to consider the effects of the pandemic on everyday mobility. Second, to look into the effects of the crisis on women’s mobility. Third, to discuss the need to implement a gender-based perspective when considering mobility policies.
- What impacts the pandemic had on daily mobility ?
Out of fear of contracting the virus, people have voluntarily reduced their social interactions. Governments have adopted various measures to reduce people’s mobility; lockdowns, curfews, closure of schools, businesses, and establishments. These measures have resulted in the abrupt decrease in mobility and the sudden rise of the trend of distant working but also the substantial lay-offs of those in precarious employment. The latter, who are highly unable to work away from the physical location of their work, and are mainly hourly workers, have lost their main source of income due to the above-mentioned measures to contain the pandemic crisisA.Berube, N. Bateman. Who are the workers already impacted by the Covid-19 recession?, Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, 2020.. Thus, their mobility has been considerably reduced.
In the region of the French capital that is home to 12,21 million individuals, the use of public transport has dropped by 88 % during the first lockdown (March-May), according to the Paris Region InstituteParis Region Institute, Changes in public transport use (train, metro, tramway, bus), Graph 5.. This attests to the substitution of the mode of travel that took place since the outbreak of the virus. Public transport was abandoned for individual transport as it is a safer mode of travel under the current sanitary conditions. The impact this had on urban mobility consists in a considerable increase in the use of private vehicles compared to other means of travel. This growing dependence on private vehicles is testified through the figures of the sales of second-hand cars in Spain and the U.S. which soared in the summer of 2020; as this mode of travel is a solution for individual mobility at a reasonable priceTabanera, N. La Covid impulsa la venta de coches de más de 15 años desde 500 euros. Econ. Digit, 2020.. Public transport has suffered a dramatic downturn due to fear, anxiety, and stress concerning the risk of contagion particularly during the first wave (spring 2020). Those concerns extended beyond the period of strict lockdown. Indeed, the use of public transport in Ile-de-France following the first strict lockdown did not shift back to the average use before the crisis, with 35% less than the pre-Covid-19 normParis Region Institute, Changes in public transport use (train, metro, tramway, bus), Graph 5.. The demand for public transport is still far from a return to pre-Covid-19 levels of useCoppola, P.; De Fabiis, F. Evolution of mobility sector during and beyond Covid-19: Viewpoint of industries, consultancies and public transport companies. TeMA-J. Land Use Mobil. Environ. 2020.. It is important to mention, as Coppola and De Fabiis proved, that social distancing measures on board of public transport are not effective enough to limit contamination levels and are not a sustainable measure for transport companies neither on the medium term nor on the long oneCoppola, P.; De Fabiis, F. Impacts of interpersonal distancing on-board trains during the COVID-19 emergency. Eur. Transp. Res. Rev. 2021..
An unprecedented boost in walking and biking for short trips has been recorded in most western countries; i.e Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Greece, etc. Bicycle and scooter travel was the perfect fit for a virus risk-free mode of transport. Cycling routes in France have seen an increase of 44% upon the end of the national lockdownVélo et territoire, RFI France.. The Covid crisis has provided more incentive to getting around by bicycle to avoid the risk of contracting the virus and to use a sustainable mode of travel. The city of Paris plans to invest around €150 million to transform the city into a cycling capital with the prime aim of making it a 15 minutes city. Proximity mobility (15 minutes-city), that renders travelling around the city using soft transport modes and access all relevant services in a short time, puts forth the interests of pedestrians and cyclists. These soft modes of transport are a positive change for the environment as well as the populations’ health. Mobility restrictions and fear of contagion have undoubtedly modified consumers’ travel habits.
The growing change in consumers’ habits is evidenced by data from e-commerce companies from many countries. A large increase in e-commerce has been recorded since the start of the crisis. This trend will have as an impact on consumers’ behaviour the decrease of the mobility of individuals and the increase of the circulation of urban distribution of goods’ vehiclesBhatti, A. et al, M. E-commerce trends during COVID-19 Pandemic. Int. J. Futur. Gener. Commun. Netw. 2020.. This will lead to more traffic congestion and city pollution.
The Covid-19 crisis has reduced the mobility of individuals, shifted the preferable mode of transport, as well as the behaviour of consumers. The changes brought about by the crisis are expected to have lasting effects.
- What are the effects of the crisis on women’s mobility ?
Covid-19 struck the entire globe not only on the level of health by causing hundreds of thousands of deaths but also on the level of socio-economic equalities by widening the gap of gender inequality and further expanding poverty. The socio-economic consequences of the pandemic have affected individuals differently according to gender. Covid-19’s impact on mobility has not been equal between women and men. The stay-at-home measures put in place to contain the virus resulted in a plunge regarding the mobility of both genders. However, the effect was much more conspicuous for women.
Lockdown measures put in place in several countries were generally accompanied by school closures. This has led to an immense impact on women’s mobility given their predominant role in childcare. Strict lockdowns imposed by governments during the pandemic resulted in a decrease of 17% in the number of women leaving home after about a week as opposed to 13% for men, according to data analyzed by Casselli et al. (2020) using novel and confidential mobility indicators provided by Vodafone for Italy, Portugal, and Spain which are differentiated between gender and age groupsCaselli, F. et al. The disproportionate impact of lockdowns on women and the young, Voxeu.org. 2021.. These figures foreshadow a highly possible widening of gender inequalities; for women are more inclined than men to priorities childcare over their professional careers. Besides, the rise in the number of care tasks (home study for children, domestic responsibilities, taking care of the elderly, etc,) translates into less time for women to do all the required activities and hence less time to make the necessary journeys.
Other studies point out the impact of the Covid-19 on women with a lower level of education. Angela van der Kloof and Joy Kensmil stress the fact that the virus’s impact on mobility is greater for women with a low level of education. The less educated are generally employed in precarious jobs and have seen their main source of income vanish due to governments’ measures and closures of business. Added to that, this group have little chances to work during the pandemic and by extent travel lessAngela, van der Kloof.; Joy, Kensmil. The effects of Covid-19 measures on the mobility of men and women.. The pandemic has produced a chain effect where the already disadvantaged groups are the ones who are hit the hardest. Less-educated women have fewer chances to work, fewer reasons to travel, greater financial difficulties, and higher risks of isolation.
The Covid-19 crisis reduced women’s economic capacity. The sanitary crisis has had an immense impact on the economy. The industries and professions that were affected the hardest are those that employ a large proportion of female workers; i.e hotels, restaurants, catering, etc. The number of women employed in low-paid or precarious jobs exceeds that of their male counterparts. Those employed in these types of occupations were forced to take unpaid leave and have even gotten laid off. Furthermore, women have seen their working hours reduced at a faster pace than men, moving from full to part-time and were more likely to lose their jobsGonzález-Sánchez,G. et al. Challenges and Strategies for Post-COVID-19 Gender Equity and Sustainable Mobility. Sustainability, 2021.. All the above-mentioned points lead to women’s loss of economic ressources for travel, which ultimately lead to the diminishment of travelling distance and number of journeys.
Women use public transportation, as a primary mode of travel, more than men. Women also represent a higher proportion in professions that require their presence at work (hospitals, social service activities, cleaning, etc). Given that their travel is mandatory and that their prime means of transport is public transportation, women have a higher exposure-related risk for Covid-19 contaminationIbid.. However, women’s mandatory travel is not limited to work reasons. As carriers of the heavier part of unpaid care work, women travel more than men. In a study on the case of Belgium in regards to gender and mobility, researchers provided evidence that women have had a greater mobility experience than men since the pandemic outbreak for work purposes, to run essential errands, and to provide essential items for their familiesAssoumou Ella, G. Gender, Mobility, and Covid-19: The Case of Belgium. Fem. Econ. 2020..
The pandemic has widened the already existing socio-economic gender inequalities but has also created a new one : risk-exposure inequality.
- Why is the need to implement a gender-based perspective when considering mobility policies important ?
All of the above mentioned points suggest that mobility in the post-Covid-19 world will be different. The economic deterioration the pandemic caused will have negative ramifications on gender inequality. Women’s income and employment will be more severely impacted compared to men’s both during and after the crisisAlon, T, et al. The Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Equality. Natl. Bur. Econ. Res. 2020.. The disregard of the different impacts the crisis has on both genders coupled with the lack of gender-sensitive mobility policies will only worsen the already existing gender inequalities in mobility.
Before and during the pandemic, more women than men were bound to use slower modes of transport because of their low economic capacity and limited access to mobility ressources in urban areasGonzález-Sánchez,G. et al. Challenges and Strategies for Post-COVID-19 Gender Equity and Sustainable Mobility. Sustainability, 2021.. When considering gender and age, it is women of all ages that have experienced a higher decline in their working hours and a higher loss of employment. The crisis have compromised expectation of employment, economic and even social stability and growth for women due to the absence of coordination between equality and stability in the policies for mobility in urban areasIbid.. Gender inequality and sustainable mobility are intersectional issues that ought to be considered in relation to one another. The pandemic has reinforced the culture of private vehicle use as a prime mode of transport. Men are the group with the most excessive private vehicle use. Since the pandemic, the number of women who have switched from sustainable modes of travel (public transportation) to the private vehicles has been on the rise. The only possible outcome of this switch is the decrease of sustainable mobility in urban areasIbid..
The current pandemic has shed light on the urgent need to apply a gender perspective in the design of mobility policies. A need that has been identified in numerous studies before the crisisMiralles-Guasch, C.; Melo, M.M.; Marquet, O. A gender analysis of everyday mobility in urban and rural territories: From challenges to sustainability. Gend. Place Cult. 2016., Olmo-Sánchez, M.I.; … Continue reading. Gender analysis is a key element in the study of mobility policies. First, because women’s travel pattern constitutes one of the main strengths in the design of urban mobility, as it is more sustainable in that it is more reliant of public transport. Second, the forms of mobility that emerged during the pandemic along with the new technologies in transport push toward the need for a better understanding of the potential users to prevent factors that can result in gender inequalities in access to new modes of transportGonzález-Sánchez,G. et al. Challenges and Strategies for Post-COVID-19 Gender Equity and Sustainable Mobility. Sustainability, 2021.. In a post-Covid-19 world, mobility should focus more on the differences in men’s and women’s attitudes to the different modes of transport to advance sustainable urban mobilityKawgan-Kagan, I. Are women greener than men? A preference analysis of women and men from major German cities over sustainable urban mobility. Transp. Res. Interdiscip. Perspect. 2020..
The Covid-19 crisis has had an immense impact on the socio-economic spheres that in their turn have worsened already existing inequalities between groups, with women identified as the highly affected groupKristal, T.; Yaish, M. Does the coronavirus pandemic level the gender inequality curve? (It doesn’t). Res. Soc. Stratif. Mobil. 2020.. The 5th Sustainable Development Goal of The United Nations is achieving gender equality. Although considerable progress has been made in past decades, gender inequalities still persist in almost all areas of life. The Covid-19 crisis might retract the little achievements that have been made. The European Commission for Equality invites nations to take the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to effectively address inequality issues. A balanced sharing of domestic work, equal chances, and opportunities give women and men equal opportunities to prosper. Added to that, the narrowing of the wage gap will allow women, among many other things, to have more liberty in their choice of mobility.
To cite this article: Ayma Tayaa, “Gender and mobility during the COVID crisis”, 22.12.2021, Gender Institute in Geopolitics.
The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.
|↑1||Hanson, S. Gender and mobility: New approaches for informing sustainability. Gend. Place Cult. 2010.|
|↑2||Cassetta, E. et al. Emerging technological trajectories and new mobility solutions. A large-scale investigation on transport-related innovative start-ups and implications for policy. Transp. Res. Part A Policy Pract. 2017.|
|↑3, ↑16, ↑20, ↑24||González-Sánchez,G. et al. Challenges and Strategies for Post-COVID-19 Gender Equity and Sustainable Mobility. Sustainability, 2021.|
|↑4||Moslem, S. et al. Best-worst method for modelling mobility choice after COVID-19: Evidence from Italy. Sustainability 2020.|
|↑5||Caselli, F. et al. The disproportionate impact of lockdowns on women and the young, Voxeu.org. 2021.|
|↑6||A.Berube, N. Bateman. Who are the workers already impacted by the Covid-19 recession?, Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, 2020.|
|↑7, ↑9||Paris Region Institute, Changes in public transport use (train, metro, tramway, bus), Graph 5.|
|↑8||Tabanera, N. La Covid impulsa la venta de coches de más de 15 años desde 500 euros. Econ. Digit, 2020.|
|↑10||Coppola, P.; De Fabiis, F. Evolution of mobility sector during and beyond Covid-19: Viewpoint of industries, consultancies and public transport companies. TeMA-J. Land Use Mobil. Environ. 2020.|
|↑11||Coppola, P.; De Fabiis, F. Impacts of interpersonal distancing on-board trains during the COVID-19 emergency. Eur. Transp. Res. Rev. 2021.|
|↑12||Vélo et territoire, RFI France.|
|↑13||Bhatti, A. et al, M. E-commerce trends during COVID-19 Pandemic. Int. J. Futur. Gener. Commun. Netw. 2020.|
|↑14||Caselli, F. et al. The disproportionate impact of lockdowns on women and the young, Voxeu.org. 2021.|
|↑15||Angela, van der Kloof.; Joy, Kensmil. The effects of Covid-19 measures on the mobility of men and women.|
|↑17, ↑21, ↑22||Ibid.|
|↑18||Assoumou Ella, G. Gender, Mobility, and Covid-19: The Case of Belgium. Fem. Econ. 2020.|
|↑19||Alon, T, et al. The Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Equality. Natl. Bur. Econ. Res. 2020.|
|↑23||Miralles-Guasch, C.; Melo, M.M.; Marquet, O. A gender analysis of everyday mobility in urban and rural territories: From challenges to sustainability. Gend. Place Cult. 2016., Olmo-Sánchez, M.I.; Maeso-González, E. Diferencias de género en la movilidad en regiones urbanas de Andalucia. Rev. Lat.-Am. Geogr. Genero 2013., Maciejewska, M.; Miralles-Guasch, C. Evidence of gendered modal split from Warsaw, Poland. Gender Place Cult. 2019.|
|↑25||Kawgan-Kagan, I. Are women greener than men? A preference analysis of women and men from major German cities over sustainable urban mobility. Transp. Res. Interdiscip. Perspect. 2020.|
|↑26||Kristal, T.; Yaish, M. Does the coronavirus pandemic level the gender inequality curve? (It doesn’t). Res. Soc. Stratif. Mobil. 2020.|