Commute times have started to creep up again after a short fall during the recession, according to a new TUC analysis of official figures published today to coincide with the end of Commute Smart Week, organised by Work Wise UK. The average daily commute is now nearly five minutes longer than it was a decade ago, with workers spending an extra 4.5 days a year travelling to and from work.
While commute times for men and women in their late teens and twenties are fairly similar, a huge gender divide starts to appear at 30, which never goes away. Commute times for women peak in their late 20s at 54.6 minutes and then start to fall as they get older.
Journey times for men however, continue to rise until they reach their early 40s, when they spend an average of 67.2 minutes commuting to and from work. Men in their early 40s spend an extra 17.4 minutes to travelling to work compared to women of the same age.
The TUC believes the main reason for this gender divide is the impact of childcare responsibilities, with many women in their 30s moving jobs to be closer to home so they can pick their children up from nursery and school. Meanwhile, many dads take on jobs even further from home in order to increase their earnings to cope with the high cost of childcare. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“Most people expect their earnings to rise as they get older. Unfortunately the length of time spent getting to and from work increases too. Long commutes are not always practical for those doing the nursery and school run, which is why mums tend to work closer to home. This move often involves them taking a huge pay cut too. But new business communication technologies should mean more workers are able to change the way they work, or work from home occasionally. Cutting the commute needn’t mean cutting pay too.”