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Car-buying men outrun women on wheels

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Men at a Swedish vintage car meeting in Västerås. File: Ann Törnkvist
10:06 CET+01:00
Twice as many Swedish men as women buy a car, they use them more, and they drive further due to "traditions", a new study claimed on Friday.


"It think it's due to traditions," said Anette Myht, statistician with official policy advisory agency Transport Analysis.

Men were still more likely to have a driving licence than women were and 67 percent of cars in Sweden were found to be registered to men. Figures also showed that men spend 21 percent of their income on transport, while a woman spends 15 percent. If a woman has children, she spends even less - nine percent.

"It's not biological destiny that men buy a car, rather it's a status symbol," transport researcher Joanna Dickinson told the TT news agency on Friday. She referenced the 1940s and 1950s when owning a car became ever more common in Sweden, but the standard was for women to care for the home while men went off to work elsewhere.

"It's been that way for a long time, and it's stayed that way."

Dickinson, an analyst at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (Statens väg- och transportforskningsinstitut - VTI), said men's longer distance to work could in part also explain the division of labour in the home, or vice-versa, the division of labour at home affected what distance men versus women were comfortable with for their morning commute.

"The travelling affects how a family divides up the work," she said. "Having responsibility for the children and the household means that the woman often takes a job closer to the home."

The new review would have come as little surprise to the agency, which in January published a report about men's and women's travel habits in general. The agency rifled through figures from Statistics Sweden and collated them with two surveys on travel habits.

"Traditional gender roles are still very clear in our travel habits," said project manager Mats Wiklund in a statement at the time. "Men drive cars and women sit in the passenger seat. Men spend more time getting back and forth to work than women do, while women spend more time travelling to go shopping for goods and services."

Women were found to spend more time using buses, trains, and the metro, as well as walking to get where they were going, than men did. The January report concluded that gender differences in Swedes' travel habits had remained unchanged in the past five years.

The report author took the opportunity to reference the case of Vienna, where city planners had made sure to shift the focus from getting around by car to making commuting and moving about in other ways easier. Wiklund cited a 2013 Slate Magazine article entitled Let's All Move to Vienna, in which the writer dissected the different ways men and women have of getting to their destination.

"One big reason is that women are still tasked with handling the majority of domestic responsibilities," writer Amanda Marcotte noted as she painted a picture of women running errands. "As irritating as this conclusion is, the city's response was pure gold: They started the long process of reorganized infrastructure to ease intra-neighbourhood running around." 

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READ ALSO: Stockholm freeriders see progress in fight for free public transport

What has become known as gender equal city planning has also made the news in Sweden. Early this winter, a politician in Stockholm said the capital would do well to mimic the small town of Karlskoga, which had rearranged its snow clearing priorities to make sure people on foot (more women than men) faced a snow-free walk to drop off the children at daycare and then continue to work - rather than the town clearing the major roads first off. 

READ MORE AND WATCH THE VIDEO: Sweden warms to "gender equal" snow ploughing

"Stockholm is as a modern city and needs a modern way of ploughing," Stockholm's shadow city commissioner Daniel Helldén of the Green Party told The Local.
 
"We need access for everyone in the city, today it's mostly men who are prioritized."

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