Covid-19 has exposed the inequalities of working from home

Economists at the International Monetary Fund report significant differences in the ability to work remotely from country to country, even within the same occupation. (Rawpixel pic)

PARIS: While office workers around the world went remote these past few months of lockdown, a recent study reveals that the ability to telework varies drastically by economic development, age, and gender.

Economists at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimate that 97.3 million workers across the world would find it hard to telework due to lack of access to technology and the inability to work remotely in their field of work.

Among those least likely to be able to work from home are young workers without a college education, who were already suffering from unfavourable work arrangements prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the study notes that men are less likely to work in an occupation that is compatible with working from home, women are disproportionately represented in sectors that do not lend themselves to telework.

This includes food service and hospitality, as well as wholesale and retail trade, with the IMF economists evaluating that approximately 20 million workers in those areas are at a high risk of losing their jobs as a result of lockdown measures.

Meanwhile, economists also report significant differences in the ability to work remotely from country to country, even within the same occupation.

Workers in emerging and developing economies like Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, and Turkey are the least likely to be able to perform their jobs from home.

“More than half the households in most emerging and developing countries don’t even have a computer at home,” authors Mariya Brussevich, Era Dabla-Norris, and Salma Khalid wrote.

By contrast, Nordic countries and Singapore have the highest tele-workability scores, reflecting their relatively developed digital economies.

The IMF’s analysis also points out that Greece and Italy are the European countries where workers are the least able to work from home.

“This crisis has clearly shown that being able to get online was a crucial determinant to people’s ability to continue engaging in the workplace. Investing in digital infrastructure and closing the digital divide will allow disadvantaged groups to participate meaningfully in the future economy,” Brussevich, Dabla-Norris and Khalid added.