Researchers, politicians and activists have increased interest in commuting to and from work in recent decades.
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In this special investigation (Trends in commute times of European workers: a cross-country analysis, Transport Policy, 2022), we study the trends and evolution of the time workers devoted to this type of commute during the 1990s. focused on doing. , 2000 and 2010 in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Greece, Holland, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Sweden. To do this, we use data from Eurostat’s European Working Conditions Survey.
First, we find that travel time to and from work has increased significantly in all the countries analyzed except Germany, Greece and Portugal, whereas it has remained relatively constant in Austria and Luxembourg. However, the reasons for this divergence require further analysis.
Second, we also found that men and women were more likely to go to work and work than women, even when comparing similar characteristics (age, educational level, income, marital status, occupation and area of residence, among others) of men and women. spend more time traveling.
These differences are particularly significant in Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom. In other words, the data indicates that there is a gender difference in the amount of time taken to work.
The causes and consequences of this difference are relatively unclear, although the data show some indication. The gender differences in these displacements seem to be related to:
- Differences in the degree of labor specialization of men and women.
- Separate load of household responsibilities.
- Possible intermediate activities that are performed on the way to work.
Some come first, some go behind
We also look at what demographics, job, family and occupational characteristics of workers tell about the amount of time they spend commuting to and from work.
The results show some degree of heterogeneity between countries with respect to these determinants. In other words, the factors that explain these displacements vary from country to country. This disparity has a clear conclusion: mobility to and from work is a complex phenomenon that depends on observable factors, making it difficult to analyze from a microeconomic perspective.
Despite this, the results also show some general patterns: quality of transportation infrastructure is correlated with better commuting times, while widespread use of the car as a transportation vehicle is correlated with longer commuting times.
Finally, we find a complex relationship between commuting and unemployment levels and economic growth in the countries analyzed, with this regard varying from country to country. This reinforces the idea that these displacements represent a complex phenomenon that requires more efforts to model and analyze.
We live in a world that is increasingly committed to the environment, but in which we spend more and more time going to work and in which the majority of travel remains private. In this sense, travel is one of the main sources of pollution and emissions. On the other hand, coming to work is a source of unhappiness, creating stress and reducing labor productivity for workers.
Our results open the door to future work that seeks to analyze in detail some aspects of labor commuting, and may help guide policies that help workers optimize these commutes and thus, reduce their negative impact on the society.
Measures aimed at improving the available information on job search, promoting green transport or promoting consistent working hours may be interesting in this regard.