Recherche FFJ Research Statement Thi Ngoc Tu LE

Thi Ngoc Tu LE

The HoChiMinh City- Urban Mobility and gender-sensitive analysis

La mobilité urbaine en HoChiMinh Ville et l’analyse de sensitivité du genre

Thị Ngọc Tú LÊ, Hoa Sen University



This research investigates the cohesive relationship of the urban transportation including Mobility, Gender and Care by studying the case of HoChiMinh city. The difference of women and men participation in transportation will be identified and connected to the social-gender role activities.

Key-words: Urban mobility, Gender, Care, HoChiMinh City (HCMC).

Background and relevance of the research

Mobility versus Gender, Mobility versus Care

Transport infrastructure and services are the means to improve the well-being of people by facilitating access to economic and social benefits. They therefore should be designed to meet the needs of the public in ways that are equitable, affordable, and responsive to all groups of population, including women, men, children, elder, and people with disabilities. However, they are often incorrectly considering the “gender-neutral”, that means, wrongly assumed public transportation brings equally benefits to men and women, i.e., no significant difference in the travel patterns, modes of transport access, and utilization of transport infrastructure and services (ADB, 2013).

In fact, the mobility is socially determined by gender roles related to the reproduction, production, and community. The relative economic and social status, as well as livelihoods of women and men also influence the different needs and usages of transport services. People use various modes of transport for different purposes and in different manners. However, these differences have been discussed in the literature, but there are still many gaps which need to fill up.

Research on the relationship between daily mobility and gender was firstly examined by feminist transportation geographers and urban planners in the 1970s (Law, 1999). They made against conventional planning assumptions where gender was an irrelevant variable in calculating future infrastructure needs and adjusting the practices to suit men's commuting needs associated with relatively simple mobility patterns (such as from home to work and vice-versa). This however have not accounted for the reproductive work that women could also associate with their activities as part of the workforce.

Later, other related-field scholars such as from urban planning, transportation, sociology, geography, and architecture, etc. also considered the gender issues in their research (Loukaitou-Sideris et al., 2009; Madariaga & Roberts, 2016) They analyzed differences in the travel behavior of women and men. Such differences are associated with the daily activities of men/women; as well as with their social-gender roles; typical life courses; social organization of production and reproduction in general. Such differences in mobility behavior and patterns of men/women regularly appear on an aggregate level.

Recent efforts to shift the focus of transport planners from commuting trips related to “Mobility of care”(De Madariaga, 2013). This approach is likely to provide the practical and operational foundations needed to sustain a new approach to data collection, and thus policy definition and implementation, to better mainstream gender considerations into planning and transportation management.

HCMC- Urban Mobility and gender-sensitive analysis

Vietnam has been among the world's fastest-growing economies. HCMC is the largest city in Vietnam and the country’s economic hub, with a population forecast to grow by 2.1% per annum. If current trends are not offset by better transport infrastructure and public transport systems, HCMC will face the congestion, road security, and air pollution issues similar to those in other large Asian cities (ADB, 2006). The goal of the HCMC authorities is to raise the share of public transport to carry 25-30% of all daily motorized trips by 2030. As a result, municipal transport services are normally scheduled to serve travels focusing on the works to downtowns, but not designed to meet the needs of women who particularly often combine several trips for their various tasks to multiple destinations. HCMC has often the traffic congestion and is enormously flooded due to the rain during the rainy season. In these difficult conditions, traveling by the personal means of transport and controlling them for women become terribly unsafe, especially when they often travel with children or grocery items after the working time. In HCMC, women face psychological as well as physical pressure much higher than men in using the transportation means due to many reasons, and consequently this can cause road accidents. While men's crashes might be in majority caused by drunk driving or careless riding, women's accidents are more often due to being hit by other vehicles or by themselves (personal data, not published yet). Robbery and sexual abuse are also other issues for women when participating in urban transportation. They are often the target of many road predators who can take advantage on the women's physical weakness to steal their bags or to attack them, causing injuries or accidents.

All above reasons with the inadequate design of public transport infrastructure/services will constrain women's access and limit the positive distributional impacts of urban public transportation.

Unlocking women’s economic potentials via a new mobility-transport system that integrates the gender-sensitive dimensions

The gender dimensions in the public transportation should become more evident when its investment can be viewed in terms of facilitating the mobility of people for various purposes and needs as well as in different modes, in which women and men, children and elders could differently experience – rather than just simply investing in hard infrastructure that equally benefits all groups of the population. A well-designed transport infrastructure can economically empower women and serve as the first step for women to access to job opportunities (Mohun et al., 2016). There is also a potential to increase social mobility when it can be combined with skills training, capacity building, and changes in social norms. (H. Brejnholt, K. Ansbæk, 2016). Moreover, women can also engage in more qualified jobs in the transport sectors, such as bus drivers, ticket collectors, and taxi drivers (ADB, 2011). Gendered-daily travel patterns are considered as a useful unit of analysis for investigating unequal access to economic opportunities. The complex nature of female daily mobilities needs to be explained along with employers' perceptions of women's workspace and time use (Akyelken, 2017).

On the contrary, restrictions on daily mobility would separate women from the socio-economic development, exacerbate inequality, and reinforce negative social norms. Evidence shows that ignoring gender differences in transport planning and operation is a missed opportunity for women's economic growth and empowerment (Jobes et al., 2017).

Transport investments that are designed with the due consideration of gender dimensions can bring significant benefits to women (as well as to children, elderly, and people with disabilities), in terms of increasing access to employment, markets, education, and health services, as well as directly reducing their poverty.

Research objectives

This study will investigate the cohesive relationship between the urban mobility, Gender, and Care. The intersection and interaction of these terms will be examined by introducing the case-study of HCMC. That means the HCMC urban mobility will be studied under the gender focus.

The following specific objectives will be: (1) to identify the difference in transportation participation between men and women; (2) To connect these differences in terms of gender function in mobility and caring activities; and 3) To suggest a better planning for gender-focus investment of public transportation system.

Proposed methods

In this study, the concept of mobility of care from (De Madariaga & Zucchini, 2019) will be referenced to design the data collection questionnaire, along with the real context in HCMC, the transportation activities are divided into numerous small categories such as work-related, learning & training, escorting and shopping, entertaining, networking, health-related, and community-related issues, etc. Subdividing activities help to visualize trips into categories, and record data into work and care ones. This approach will help users to recognize the importance of caring work and support transportation planners to design systems that would fit to all groups of population.

This study will also consider other approaches to identity subjective experiences (public means), preferable utilities in transport, experiences related to physical and mental health, and respective gender performances, as well as occupation and income.

Research steps will include the questionnaire design, data collection, data analysis, and discussing different perspectives to directly address women/men differences and their concerns in the access, usage and benefits from transport infrastructure and services.

The first stage will aim at documenting the structural factors that contribute to shape different mobilities in gender. An exhaustive literature review with consultation from experts in the field of study will be performed. In the second stage, a survey will be conducted to address the behavior and activities of about 1,000 people living in HCMC with the age range from 15-65 of all occupations.

The questionnaire will include all necessary information such as demography, daily and weekly transport activities, transportation costs, vehicle ownership, and individual experience of public transport. Employment status and income are also required to examine the relationship between different labor sectors and mobility patterns. Employment status is actually divided into subcategories including a) full-time jobs with labor contracts; b) paid jobs without labor contracts; c) self-employed (owner-employer); d) self-employed (hired workers); e) unpaid family business; e) full-time housewives, and f) unemployment. The relationship between mobility and gender with time for unpaid work such as house works, and caring work is particularly underlined in this study.

The empirical analysis associated with random effect models in the final stage will be envisaged. Key-indicators including travel time for different activities, vehicle ownership, vulnerable employment, unpaid work, and travel-related -health conditions, etc. will be inserted. To avoid biases generated from different characteristics between groups hence differences in mobility, the individual and household features will be controlled. These characteristics include age, age squared as a nonlinear factor, education, marital status, household size, and number of children or elderly in the family.

Anticipated results and outcomes

This research will show evidence of the different transport needs of women and men, their different travel behaviors, and their ability to access and afford public transportation. That therefore will highlight the links of new transport systems to the women’s economic empowerment.

This research will also integrate the gender focus into the transport policy dialogue and promote the country’s transportation sector strategies vis-à-vis gender issues. This encourages the country’s transportation policy and planning procedures to explicitly account for the gender differences. The main aim is to promote equal economic opportunities for the entire society in expecting to unlock barriers for women’s economic potentials.

Findings from this research will be directly used to inform the HCMC department of urban transportation about the differences in mobility versus gender and care, will assist the municipal transport sector and all related agencies to design their gender-inclusive projects. Additionally, the study will also make an effort to understand the gender gaps in unpaid works, then investigate the connection between these gaps with public transport behaviors.

The dissemination of this research will draw a significant attention to gender dimensions in public values and encourage gender mainstreaming across the transport sector. This is with the final target to promote and support gender equality and women’s empowerment.


ADB-Asian Development Bank. (2006). Socialist Republic of Viet Nam: Preparing the Ho Chi Minh City Metro Rail System Project.

ADB-Asian Development Bank. (2011). Viet Nam: Making urban transport work for women, Ho Chi Min City Metro Rail Transit Line: 2011.

ADB-Asian Development Bank. (2013). Gender Tool Kit : Transport. Maximizing the Benefits of Improved Mobility for All. Asian Development Bank.

Akyelken, N. (2017). Mobility-related economic exclusion: Accessibility and commuting patterns in industrial zones in Turkey. Social Inclusion, 5 (4), 175–182.

Brejnholt, H., & Ansbæk, K.B. B. (2016). Freedom to move: women’s experience of urban public transport in Bangladesh, Brazil and Nigeria, and how lost tax revenues can pay to improve it | Eldis.

De Madariaga, I.S. (2013). Mobility of Care. UNHabitat.

De Madariaga, I. S., & Roberts, M. (2016). Fair shared cities: The impact of gender planning in Europe. In Routledge (1st Editio). Taylor and Francis.

De Madariaga, I. S., & Zucchini, E. (2019). Measuring Mobilities of care, a challenge for Transport agendas. In Integrating Gender into Transport Planning: From One to Many Tracks (pp. 1–292).

Jobes, K., Naidu, V., Limbu, S. T., & Phillips, S. (2017). Transport: A game changer for women’s economic empowerment. In ICED and DFID (Issue October).

Law, R. (1999). Beyond ‘women and transport’: towards new geographies of gender and daily mobility. SAGE Journals, 23(4), 567–588.

Loukaitou-Sideris, A., Bornstein, A., Fink, C., Samuels, L., & Gerami, S. (2009). How To Ease Women’S Fear of Transportation Environments: Case Studies and Best Practices.

Mohun, R., Biswas, S., Jacobson, J., & Sajjad, F. (2016). Infrastructure: a Game-changer for Women’s Economic Empowerment. Bacground paper, UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, prepared by the DFID-funded Infrastructure and Cities for Economic Development (ICED) facility