Everyday Economics Wealth Insight - Apr 2024

Free transit no cure for job gap

Why free bus rides aren't enough to encourage women to work

Free transit no cure for job gap

A country's GDP and growth depend on how well it uses its resources. The higher the number of productive workers, the higher the incomes, spending and investments, the better the state of the economy. Therefore, an easy way to increase the GDP growth often is to ensure people who aren't working start doing so.

Underemployment of women

One of the things India doesn't do well compared to other countries is getting women to work. According to the government's data, just about 15 per cent of Indian women work in salaried jobs and less than that in formal jobs. Even a marginal increase in these numbers can increase GDP growth tremendously. Labour economists specialising in this subject have long analysed this problem and made recommendations on what needs to be done: more women will be able to work if a decent 'care economy' could be developed that will take some of the burden women have of looking after children and the elderly. Incentivising sectors that typically employ women is one option. Bangladesh does much better than India on women's labour participation because it has a large and flourishing apparel sector that typically employs women. Street lighting, improved law and order and safer commuting options can help.

Free bus rides: Yay or nay?

The Delhi government introduced a scheme offering free bus rides to women in the city from November 2019 onwards. Ever since, bus travel has become free for women in all Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and Cluster buses. Bus operators provide a pink ticket to the rider woman for every ride. The Delhi state government then reimburses the bus operators for these pink tickets. Within 20 days of the launch, women's daily ridership in DTC and cluster buses increased from 33 per cent to 44 per cent. By March 2021, women made up the majority of riders on DTC buses.

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