Canadian Manufacturing

Pandemic measures expose work from home inequality: StatCan

About 50% of single women have jobs which allow them to work from home, compared with about one third of single men

June 9, 2020  The Canadian Press

Women, along with people with higher earnings and those with more education, are more likely to be able to work from home and therefore less likely to suffer a loss of employment income due to measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, according to a new report.

Canadians who can work from home, much like those in essential services and those whose jobs allow physical distancing, are less likely to have been laid off or have their hours reduced since the pandemic began, Statistics Canada said in a report on employment inequality released Monday.

“The results of this study today suggest that the differential (in) capacity to work from home is likely to reduce work hours more for less educated families and lower income families during the pandemic, which in turn is likely to increase inequality in family earnings and family employment income,” said senior economist Rene Morissette in an interview.

The agency said about 40% of Canadians are in jobs that can be done from home and those jobs will continue to be attractive for their work-life balance options even after the pandemic is over.

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The conclusion matches well with labour force survey results from the end of March that showed that the number of people working from home had risen from the typical 12 to 14% in recent years to about 39%, Morissette said.

About 50% of single women have jobs which allow them to work from home, compared with about one third of single men, the report found, while 62% of women in dual-income families hold jobs that can be done from home, compared with 38% for men.

The report finds the feasibility of working from home rises with income. Both partners hold jobs that can be done from home in 54% of the dual-earner families in the top 10% by earnings. The corresponding percentage for dual-earner families who are the bottom 10% is only 8%.

Statistics Canada also found that while less than 30% of primary earners with a high school diploma can work from home, roughly two-thirds of their counterparts with at least a bachelor’s degree could do so.

The jobs report from Statistics Canada last week noted that in May, employees who earned less than two-thirds of the median wage of $24 per hour saw a 38.1% drop in employment, disproportionately more than workers who earned more.

Even though there was a rebound in jobs for low-wage workers in May as restrictions eased, they continued as a group to have a higher share of people working less than half their usual hours due to COVID-19. Statistics Canada suggested the result may be because their jobs can’t easily be done from home.

Morissette said his report doesn’t reflect total family income because many people who couldn’t work from home have applied for federal aid.

The most recent federal figures show that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which now has a budget of $60 billion, has paid out $43.51 billion in benefits to 8.41 million applicants.

Positive productivity results from people working from home during the pandemic could lead to some businesses permanently shifting to that model for some of their employees, according to a report on June 8 from a C.D. Howe Institute working group.

“Employers have generally been reluctant to allow employees to work remotely, and employees may previously have accepted lower pay as part of the negotiation,” it said, noting employers have anticipated lower productivity because of lack of direct supervision and the employee’s attention to caring for others in the home.

“The recent massive shift towards working remotely provides evidence that the productivity concerns of employers, and the organizational challenges, can be overcome.”

The downside of working remotely for employees, however, could include fewer mentoring, training, leadership development and social connection opportunities, the report said.

By Dan Healing

With a file from Jordan Press in Ottawa