Thursday, July 27, 2017

Men more likely than women to own mobile phones: report

If you are one of the estimated 26.6 million women living in Myanmar, you are almost 30 percent less likely to have a mobile phone than a man, according to a new report on gender and connectivity from GSMA and Sri Lanka-based think tank LIRNasia.

Customers talk on telephones at a call centre in downtown area of Yangon in 2013. Photo: EPACustomers talk on telephones at a call centre in downtown area of Yangon in 2013. Photo: EPA

The report, “Mobile phones, internet and gender in Myanmar”, says that although traditional gender roles are evolving, women – the greater half of the population – are in the minority when it comes to SIM card ownership, with men often tasked with carrying a household’s only handset.

The report is based on surveys and interviews of more than 12,000 people, completed across Myanmar last year.

Among those polled are first-time mobile owners, who may have ridden a connectivity revolution still rolling over Myanmar.

Previously only a privileged few could afford SIM cards and handsets. Now they lay within the means of millions of people that have since bought into services provided by mobile operators Telenor, Ooredoo and state-owned incumbent Myanma Posts and Telecommunications.

Despite the impression that everyone in Myanmar has a mobile phone, from high-powered executives to trishaw drivers, many families only have one – and more men carry them on their person than women.

“Everyone has [a mobile]. Only I don’t have it. Even those who collect plastic bags have it,” said a Yangon-based woman who didn’t own a mobile phone, quoted in the report.

Forty percent of Myanmar people aged 15 to 65 have an active SIM card, the report said. Broken down by gender, about one-third of women in that group had independent mobile access compared to nearly one-half of men.

“Much of the gender gap in mobile ownership has to do with the practical constraints of not being able to afford another handset in the household,” the report said.

“In most cases, the household member who goes out of the house for work or studies gets priority to keep the mobile with them – this is often not a female member.”

However, the research indicated gender roles were changing as an increased number of women pursue education, get jobs, or both. “In instances where a daughter [or] female member of the household went out to work or study, she received priority for mobile phone ownership,” it said.

Meanwhile, some respondents said they would have trouble topping up their mobile phones if they bought a handset. Urban females make 68.7pc of the average urban male’s salary for a day’s work, while rural females make 56.4pc of salaries paid to men for the same period, according to the report.

The gender gap narrows as household income rises, the report said.

Despite the gender-based fissure, downtown Yangon offers proof that many urban women are able to use mobile technology on a daily basis.

The report said results illustrated two gender gaps: a small one regarding access and usage, and a wider one in terms of ownership.