From Drought to Floods: Montevideo
The lives of domestic workers in Montevideo could be affected by the impacts of climate change and climate variability. At risk is a fundamental factor in achieving a certain level of well-being and reducing vulnerability: mobility.
When it rains in Montevideo, some people go to work as usual. Others, however, have to change their routines in order to do the same. Where a person lives is a factor that can cause significant differences in the daily activities of a city's inhabitants. Health infrastructure and mobility have a direct impact on the world of paid domestic work, which, according to data from the Banco de Previsión Social (BPS), represents 10.2% of employed women. Around 99% of those who carry out this work are women. The principal means of transportation for domestic workers in Montevideo is the bus. But in a scenario of heavy rains and flooding, it is not the same to travel from the west, center, south or northeast of the capital of Uruguay.
Diego Hernández, PhD in urban studies and a professor of the Department of Social Sciences at the Catholic University of Uruguay, argues that in terms of mobility, inequality can be defined by "how many stretches you have to make, how much time you have to travel." To this he adds more complex indicators: the conditions—for example, in relation to gender and harassment—experienced during the commute, as well as the obstacles to mobility, such as the state of the sidewalks and insecurity.
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The Metropolitan Transport System offers the option of combining lines onto one ticket—even between urban and suburban buses—to complete the required route. Because of this and because of Montevideo's own characteristics, "the problem is not whether someone can get to the point they want to get to, but under what conditions they do so," said Cecilia Rossel, sociologist and professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the Catholic University. "The point is how these negative conditions accumulate with other conditions of vulnerability and the consequences that this brings. It seems that everything is fine when in reality the system is relatively precarious in certain social sectors. For now it works, but in any [adverse] situation it falls apart."
"The working conditions of domestic workers are very precarious," says Rossel. "Because of the vulnerability of domestic workers and the conditions and demands of domestic work, where you cannot be late, any event can make things go wrong."
Sociologist Laura Marrero, United Nations Development Programme consultant and gender referent at the National Directorate of Climate Change, spoke in The Submerged City about the aspects that define vulnerability: "It is not the same for a flood to hit a precarious house, built with waste material, which will possibly destroy the house, as it is for it to hit a building on the Pocitos promenade or a house in good condition in Carrasco."
The same is true for mobility. "Many times housing is not affected, but people are unable to move about in their daily routine. If your means of transportation is on foot, by bicycle or motorcycle, you will be affected differently than if your mobility depends on a large vehicle."
In the face of climate change, climate variability and without adequate public policies, the bus routes to get to work from the west to the south of Montevideo will become affected in less than 80 years.
Diverting bus routes as a result of flooded areas may increase travel time or force women workers to make more connections to get to work on time. But, as researchers Rossel and Hernandez agree, the problem needs to be thought of beyond the workplace, as all types of travel are relevant.
Territorial accessibility affects the quality of life of Montevideans. Projected flooding that reconfigures the routes of the capital's bus lines will impact their accessibility to basic services. If the travel time to and from the city for a domestic worker becomes more complex and increases, who will take care of the workers' children? Who will take care of the elderly who may live with them? How much will it affect the family's health and their own medical check-ups?
Hernández affirms this: "Transportation per se does not solve social fractures nor does it solve integration, but it can be very relevant towards defining situations of vulnerability in which an individual falls or does not fall."
By: Miguel Ángel Dobrich and Gabriel Farías.
Geospatial data: Natalie Aubet and Nahuel Lamas.
Photos: Matilde Campodónico. Design: Antar Kuri.
Edits: Victoria Melián. Translation: Alexandra Waddell.
Data visualization: Fernando Becerra.