Commuting times over last six years falls for men by rises for women

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The amount of time spent commuting to and from work has fallen over the last six years for men but has increased for women, according to a TUC analysis of official figures published today to mark Commute Smart week, organised by Work Wise UK.

The average UK employee who commutes now spends 52.8 minutes per day travelling to and from work. This amounts to 4 hours and 24 minutes per week for a full-time worker or more than five weeks per year for an employee who works 44 weeks per year.

The TUC analysis of figures from the Labour Force Survey, which compares pre-recession commute times (2006) with the most recent available figures (2012), shows that while average commute times have edged down by 0.4 minutes per day, the trends vary considerably by gender and region.

Men tend to spend longer than women travelling to work and back, but their average travel to work times has fallen by 0.2 minutes a day to 58 minutes. The average commute time for female employees has increased by 0.6 minutes to 47.4 minutes.

Commute times vary considerably across the UK. Commute times for female workers have increased most sharply in Scotland and London.

Janet Cassidy of the RMT said: “It’s surprising just how much travelling people have to do.

“It is an obstacle for women. You’ve got to take into consideration child-care, time to drop off your kids.”

Speaking to UnionNews at the STUC women’s conference, Janet said: “The fact that we have a lot of unmanned stations does prove a big problem because women just won’t travel at night.”

Elaine Dougall, Unite’s Scottish equalities officer, added: “Particularly for women living in rural areas, accessible transport is becoming more and more difficult.

“It’s a huge issue for our members.

“[Public transport] cuts are taking place. We’ve got huge concerns about that.”

Female workers in the capital have longer commutes than men working anywhere other than London.

Londoners have the longest average commute at 75 minutes, while workers in Wales have the shortest average commute at 41.4 minutes.

Men working in the East of England have experienced the sharpest rise in commute times – increasing by an average of 3.8 minutes to 65.2 minutes. Only Londoners now have longer commutes than those working in counties like Essex, Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire and Hertfordshire.

Male workers in Wales have experienced the sharpest drop in commute times, falling by 4.6 minutes to 41.4 minutes.

The three regions with the sharpest falls in commute times are Wales, the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber. TUC analysis published yesterday found that these regions have also experienced the sharpest increase in unemployment since the recession. These trends suggest there is a link between changing commute times and the health of local labour markets.

The TUC believes that the recent rise in part-time work, particularly amongst men, also helps to explain why commute times have fallen for men but increased for women.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “The average commuter spends the equivalent of more than five weeks a year just to get to work and back. With rising transport costs far outstripping pay rises, reducing the number of peak-time commutes would save both time and money for hard-pressed workers.

“Recent trends suggest there is a link between long commute times and longer hours in the office, with the growing number of men in part-time work having shorter journeys to work.

“This trend is concerning if it means part-time workers and those needing to balance work with caring responsibilities are being excluded from certain types of jobs.

“Businesses should use Commute Smart week to ask whether all those journeys are really necessary.”

Work Wise UK Chief Executive Phil Flaxton said: “Commute Smart week will remind employers that there is another opportunity to change attitudes and thinking in relation to working practises.

“As winter approaches, are we going to see business interrupted by poor weather and disrupted travel? Or should we grasp the opportunity by changing the way employees work and commute and introduce more flexibly to cut out these restrictive influences on business performance?

“More and more business are reviewing their working practises and thinking hard about how they manage people. Managing by outputs is the key, forget about presenteeism and concentrate on creating a workforce that is flexible, responsive and delivers the business plan.

“Commute Smart week provides a real opportunity to revise tired working practises, how and where people work and set about adopting flexible approaches to people management as a key component of effective change.”


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