Transport and Recruitment of Female Workers: A Randomised Controlled Trial

An underdeveloped transport network can cause a significant drag on growth by reducing the mobility of workers, and hence the effectiveness of labor markets. Firms’ ability to hire and retain productive workers is limited, while job-seekers may struggle to find accessible opportunities. In many Muslim-dominated or South Asia countries, this problem is exacerbated for women because of social norms that make it taboo or dangerous for women to use public transportation services crowded with men. For this reason, in Pakistan, firms often provide their own transportation services to women. This is extremely costly, especially for small firms. As a result, many firms do not employ women at all or are severely limited in their ability to do so. This has led to the government-sponsored launch of women-only bus services in certain areas of Lahore.

In partnership with Lahore Transport Service (LTS), this study evaluates the impact of providing women-only bus services on the performance of firms and on female labor market participation in Lahore. After identifying routes in which there is a dire need for more transport options, the researchers will randomly deploy women-only buses on some of these routes. This randomisation will enable the researchers to rigorously identify the effect of the women-only bus services on a range of labor market outcomes.

In particular, by conducting interviews with firms and households, and combining the results with location data, they will evaluate whether firms are more successful in their recruiting efforts and whether women are more likely to receive and to respond favorably to job offers when they are near routes with women-only buses. The researchers will also assess whether the effect of transport on performance is more pronounced for certain industries, and whether the effect on employment opportunities depending on skill or education. 

This project contributes to the body of research on the impact of transport infrastructure on markets. It is the first study to explicitly focus on how the limited mobility of women directly constrains firms and affects female labour market participation. As such, this project is of great practical relevance to a number of developing countries in which the mobility of women is limited. 


Erica Field

Duke University

Kate Vyborny

Duke University