Transport and urban labour market integration: evidence on firms from a randomised control trial in Pakistan

Publication Details

3ie Funded Evaluation, DPW1.1053. A link to the completed study will appear here when available.

Erica Field, Ghulam A. Anjum, Ammar Malik, Hadia Majid, Kate Vyborny
Institutional affiliations
None specified
Grant-holding institution
None specified
South Asia
None specified
Gender analysis
None specified
Gender analysis
Equity Focus
Evaluation design
Difference-in Difference (DID), Randomised Control Trials (RCT)
Ongoing 3ie Funded Studies
3ie Funding Window
Development Priorities Window 1


The study evaluates the effect of urban transit systems on labour markets in Lahore, Pakistan


Despite increasing urbanisation, Pakistan’s cities suffer from a poorly connected public transport network. In qualitative interviews, employers report that transport for their workers is a problem – especially for female workers, who are restricted by cultural norms, harassment and stigma when they travel. To address these problems, the Government of Pakistan has embarked on an ambitious plan to build rail and bus based mass transit systems in large cities in Pakistan. However, the value for money of such investments is questionable as the evidence on economic and social impact of greater mobility remains limited.

The impact evaluation will include two components. The first component will evaluate the effects of the transit lines in Lahore, while the second component will evaluate the impacts of a pilot door-to-door pick-and-drop service. The pilot services evaluated in this study will help to shed light on potential design features such as separate sections for women and different potential fare policies.

Research questions

The evaluation will answer the following questions:

  1. How do investments in urban transit affect labour supply, including men’s and women’s labour market search; participation on the extensive margin (the decision to work); intensive margin (hours), and job choice?
  2. If there are changes in women’s workforce participation, how does this affect women’s empowerment, and attitudes on women’s mobility, gender-segregated spaces and women in the workplace?
  3. What kinds of areas are likely to benefit most from these investments? Can they help to integrate peri-urban and other marginalised areas of the city?
  4. How do these investments affect men and women differently? How does women’s-only transport affect women differently from mixed-gender transport?
  5. How do these investments affect the markets for housing and commercial land, and the density of the built environment? Are the benefits of better access to employment priced in to the housing market and if so, how quickly? How is this likely to affect welfare?

The study proposed an employer survey extension that will address the following questions:

  1. How do transport services affect employers?
  2. How does the intervention affect the attitudes of supervisors and co-workers on: a) Their female employees, and women in the workplace more generally? b) Women’s mobility outside the home and gender-segregated spaces?


Intervention design

The intervention has two components. Component 1 includes the two major transit lines in Lahore: the green line and the orange line. The Lahore metrobus, or green line, is a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line which opened in March 2013. It crosses the city from the northern periphery to the southern periphery. Like other BRT systems, it comprises a system of buses running with a reserved lane to allow high-speed transit. The Lahore orange line is a light rail line currently under construction, and is expected to begin operation later in 2016. It will cross the city from east to southwest and will have an interchange station with the green line, forming an integrated transit system. Component 2 is a pilot door-to-door pick-and-drop service which takes individuals from home to work every day at fixed times on a biweekly subscription basis.

Theory of change

Transit could directly affect labor market outcomes through (a) a reduction in the costs of traveling to search for a job, and/or (b) the effects of reducing the costs of commuting to the job on a regular basis. The effect of component 1 could include both mechanisms; however, the three- and five-year impacts estimated in component 1 are unlikely to be driven in large part by the job search cost mechanism. The intervention studied in component 2 is subscription-based and cannot be used for job search, so it isolates the effect of the second mechanism.

Evaluation design

With respect to component 1, a quasi-experimental difference-in-differences approach will be used. The treatment group will be areas within a short distance of newly built lines, while the control group will be areas within a short distance of lines which have been planned, but have not been built. Because these areas have been selected for potential routes, they are likely to be comparable overall to the areas selected for initial transit routes.

Regarding component 2, a survey of employers will be conducted to capture both sides of the labour market and study important outcomes that cannot be captured through the household surveys only. This study builds on an existing randomised evaluation, which tests the overall impact of transport to work on men, women, and the differential impact for women of women's-only transport. Residential and employment areas will be randomised into pick-and-drop routes in treatment 1 (women’s-only transport), treatment 2 (mixed-gender transport) or into a control group.  

Additional publications

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