Ride-hailing apps have been found to boost women’s income and ease their entry into the transport industry in South Africa and other countries. Picture: Seth Wenig / AP

Johannesburg - Ride-hailing apps have been found to boost women’s income and ease their entry into the transport industry in South Africa and other countries.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank sister organisation, has found that women have been traditionally shut out on the industry but app-based taxi companies like Uber and Taxify were opening new doors for them.

The IFC’s report titled Driving Toward Equality: Women, Ride-Hailing, and the Sharing Economy, also highlights how ride-hailing has helped fill “a transportation gap for women as riders”.

“It improves their ability to travel to places that were previously inaccessible to them and provides women with mobility and greater sense of independence."

“The findings also highlight how security concerns as well as economic and cultural barriers prevent women from fully participating in the ride-hailing industry,” said IFC in a statement.

“Women drivers reported a higher income boost than men after taking up ride-hailing work. The average income of women drivers once they began using the Uber app increased across each market studied, ranging from an 11 percent boost in Mexico to 29 percent in Egypt.”

IFC COO Stephanie von Friedeburg said in many emerging markets, women faced more hurdles than men in participating in the formal workforce and in accessing goods and services.

“The sharing economy has the potential to reduce those barriers. But for this to become reality—if women in these regions are to reap the benefits of the sharing economy—the challenges to making this happen must be identified and overcome."

“The findings have significant implications for companies across the sharing economy that desire to better include, retain, and serve women,” Von Friedeburg said.

The IFC said if ride-hailing companies recruited additional female drivers, it could create a virtuous cycle by attracting more female riders.

“IFC calls upon companies in this space to gather and analyze gender-specific data, design platforms to better meet women’s needs, and develop best practices to reduce the economic disparities between women and men,” said Von Friedeburg.

The report used data from the ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc., surveys of more than 11 000 female and male users of the Uber app, interviews with experts on gender, transportation, and the future of work.

Uber COO Barney Harford said in his foreword: “... Some prospective drivers lack access to a vehicle, others have concerns about safety and security. While we are proud to have passed the important milestone last year of bringing economic opportunity to one million women as drivers on Uber, the reality is that the vast majority of these women are in the United States.”

In South Africa, there have been a number of security concerns raised by Uber and Taxify drivers regarding security.

First, app-based operators are embroiled in a war with metered taxi driver over passengers.

These drivers are also under siege and are increasingly being targeted by criminals.

Uber driver-partner Malindi Somthi, 33, said being in the business was not easy. She has been in the business for almost two years.

“I used to work until the wee hours of the morning but now I can’t. I fear for my life. We make more money at night but we are not safe,” Somthi said.

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The Star