Pandemic measures expose work-from-home inequality says StatsCan

Statistics Canada says that women, 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 income due to measures to limit spread of COVID-19.

In a report on employment inequality published Monday, it says workers in essential services, in jobs that can be done with proper physical distancing measures or are in jobs that can be done from home are much less likely to have been laid off or have their hours reduced since the pandemic began.

“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,” StatsCan senior economist René Morissette, co-author of the report, said in an interview.

The agency says about 40 per cent 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.

The conclusion matches up 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 per cent in recent years to about 39 per cent, Morissette said.

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

Income and education are determining factors

The report finds the feasibility of working from home rises with income and education level.

It says in 54 per cent of the dual-earner families who are in the top 10 per cent by earnings that both partners hold jobs that can be done from home. The corresponding percentage for dual-earner families who are the bottom decile is only eight per cent.

Statistics Canada also finds that while less than 30 per cent 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 per cent 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 so far paid out $43.51 billion in benefits to 8.41 million applicants.


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