Mobility as a key to employment
Nearly a quarter of all French people have had to give up on a job or training course because they were unable to get there. Solving mobility problems has become a priority for helping people back into employment.
According to a survey commissioned by the Laboratoire de la Mobilité Inclusive, half of all jobseekers in France have transport issues, such as no driving licence, no access to public transport or difficulty using the transport options available to them. The study also shows that nearly one in five French people has given up on going to a job interview or an employment centre because they couldn’t get there. This problem hits vulnerable people the hardest. Nearly half of all young people, and 54% of people with a household income of less than €1,000 per month, have turned down a job or training course for this reason.
“The economic and material barriers to mobility – such as not being able to afford a car or pay for free-floating services, or not knowing how to use public transport – then create cognitive barriers, with people believing that they’re not up to the task,” explains Florence Gilbert, director of the charity Wimoov. “This leads to a feeling of exclusion and isolation. We need to break this vicious circle. Being able to get around helps people feel autonomous and look for employment further afield.”
Designing transport systems for the most vulnerable
Second only to training as a barrier to employment, mobility is also a major challenge for companies, with 40% finding it difficult to hire new people because of mobility issues. In France, the problem is particularly acute since transport systems were designed mainly with cars in mind.
“People who can’t drive bear the brunt of this policy. Other mobility solutions aren’t sufficiently developed. That’s not to say we should stop using cars, but we do need to optimise and pool them. Initiatives such as carsharing and carpooling can help include the most disadvantaged members of society,” says Gilbert. “In France, means of transport have been created for your average Joe – people with the knowledge and ability to use them. They weren’t designed with vulnerable people in mind. In Denmark and Japan, transport systems are trialled with disadvantaged people first, which means that everyone is able to use them.”
Learning about mobility
Developing, diversifying and pooling existing means of transport, even when privately owned, is essential to improving mobility and helping people back into employment. This can come in the form of carpooling promoted by local authorities and businesses, for example, or last-mile shuttle services. But the most important thing is to educate and provide training to communities with limited access to mobility. “Mobility can be learnt. Most of the population is familiar with it from childhood, but not everybody,” says Gilbert. Mobility platforms are working to achieve this. Alongside French employment network Pôle Emploi, local job centres, regional authorities and companies, they identify the barriers to mobility for vulnerable members of society, make a diagnosis and design a personalised plan that may last several months.
Mobility platforms offer assistance to obtain driving licences and micro-credit solutions to help people buy a vehicle. However, people with limited resources may then be unable to afford fuel and insurance costs. For this reason, teaching them how to use a bicycle or electric scooter is often more suitable for their needs. “But then people receiving this kind of support can decide at the last minute not to go through with it, because they feel afraid or ashamed, or because the cycle path isn’t well lit. So, for their first trips, their instructors come and meet them at their home and cycle with them to work to help them overcome those last obstacles,” explains Gilbert.