Ride-hailing apps are helping women join the workforce & ‘juggle work-life responsibilities’

New Delhi: The easy access to cab-hailing apps in the past decade has empowered women in India to explore more work options, a new study has found. While a significant proportion of the surveyed women who have joined the workforce said the safety and convenience of ride-hailing apps had positively influenced their decision to work, another group of working women said these apps enabled them to transition from part-time work to full-time jobs.

The report ‘Ride Hailing — A Platform for Women’s Economic Opportunity in India’, published by private research agency Oxford Economics in partnership with ride-hailing app Uber, was released by Minister of Women and Child Development Smriti Irani Thursday at an event organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

For the study conducted over the course of 2022, Oxford Economics surveyed 10,800 Uber riders across South Asia, 7,448 of whom were in India, in the five cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, and Chennai. These were riders who had undertaken trips in at least nine of the 12 months of 2022 in their home city.

One of the most notable findings in the report was how differently men and women, currently not working but considering employment, ranked various factors to do with their potential commute to work.

For example, 74 percent of the women respondents said they considered the safety of the commute to be among their top two concerns when deciding to work at a particular job. This number was 54 percent for men.

On the other hand, just 64 percent of the women ranked the price of the trip in their top two considerations while this proportion was higher for men, at 73 percent. In other words, when deciding whether to take up a job or not, more women felt the safety of the commute was of key importance, while more men felt the price of the commute was crucial to the decision.

The popularity of ride-hailing apps in such a scenario can be understood by the fact that the survey shows three-quarters of women who use ride-hailing apps to commute to work said they did so because it offered a safer commute than the alternative travel options.

Interestingly, 72 percent of the male riders said the same, which implies the sense of safety felt through the ride-hailing apps is across genders.

Bali Kaur Sodhi, lead economist at Oxford Economics and author of the report, explained that while these findings did not mean that working women would stop working if they didn’t have access to ride-hailing apps, it did impact the nature of their work.

“Once you’re in the workforce and you’re enjoying the financial freedom and the benefits of working, the intellectual curiosity that gets fulfilled due to working, it’s unlikely that you’re going to really stop doing it if you don’t have access to ride-hailing,” she told ThePrint in an interview. “That would be a very far cry.”

She added: “But we do see that without these options, women pick options that are closer to home or try to work from home… Not completely stop working altogether, but you can see that there would be a shift in their decision-making.”

The report also projects the impact that ride-hailing apps can have in boosting the economy through their empowerment of women.

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Safety of vehicle & impact on economy

The survey found that ride-hailing has had a significant positive impact on people’s decisions to work.

That is, 40 percent of the working women riders surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that ride-hailing apps had had a positive impact on their decision to join the workforce. One-third of the working women respondents said that ride-hailing apps had positively impacted their decision to switch from part-time work to full-time work.

Significant proportions of the working women respondents also said that ride-hailing apps allowed them to explore more varied work options, and options that were farther from their homes.

Apart from safety, the flexibility offered by ride-hailing apps also encouraged women to begin working, the report said.

“Ride-hailing gives women flexible travel options, which help them juggle their work-life responsibilities and successfully manage the burden of household responsibilities,” the report said. “Around half of the working women we surveyed noted that ride-hailing services helped them balance their time across work and family, and manage a flexible arrangement at work.”

The report also found that women with children placed a much higher importance to the safety and flexibility of commute options than men did, and that women with children were far more positive about the impact of ride-hailing apps in these respects.

Sodhi also revealed an interesting insight into how women perceive the safety of various types of vehicles. Where, conventionally, cars are considered safer than three-wheelers and two-wheelers, there were particular cases where this is flipped.

“Like you, I thought that four-wheelers were safer than three-wheelers,” Sodhi explained. “But I actually heard from one of the younger case studies that I spoke to, Prasangi [identified in the report as Prasangi S] who said that when she is travelling alone, she prefers to travel in a three-wheeler because it is easier to leap out of one.”

Sodhi added: “She said that when she’s in a car, she feels closed in and confined, and so she only takes a car at night when she’s with her friends.”

The report goes on to project a significant impact that ride-hailing apps can have on the economy through their empowerment of women.

“We project that in 2028 ride-hailing services could enable an additional 0.32 million to 0.56 million women to join the workforce across five Indian cities,” the report said. “This translates to a 4.0 percent to 6.9 percent increase in the size of the female labour force of those cities by 2028, relative to our baseline projection.”

“We estimate that the contribution of this increase in the labour force to the city-level gross value added will range from Rs 47,700 crore to Rs 82,600 crore, in 2022 prices, adding 0.7 percent to 1.2 percent to the 2028 baseline GVA,” it added.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

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