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Who and how many can work from home? Evidence from task descriptions


  • Henning Holgersen

    (Statistics Norway)

  • Zhiyang Jia

    (Statistics Norway)

  • Simen Svenkerud

    (Statistics Norway)


The Covid-19 crisis has forced great societal changes, including forcing many to work from home (WFH) in an effort to limit the spread of the disease. The ability to work from home has long been considered a perk, but we have few estimates of how many jobs are actually possible to be performed from home. This paper proposes a method to estimate the share of these jobs. For each occupation, we obtain a WFH friendly measure by asking respondents from Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) to evaluate whether the corresponding tasks can be performed from home based on the descriptions from the International Standard Classification of Occupations 2008 (ISCO-08) standard. The share of WFH friendly jobs in an economy can then be estimated by combining these measures with the labor statistics on occupational employments. Using Norway as an illustrating example, we find that approximately 38% of Norwegian jobs can be performed from home. The Norwegian results also suggest that the pandemic and the government’s attempts to mitigate this crisis may have a quite uneven impact on the working population. Those who are already disadvantaged are often less likely to have jobs that can be performed from home.

Suggested Citation

  • Henning Holgersen & Zhiyang Jia & Simen Svenkerud, 2021. "Who and how many can work from home? Evidence from task descriptions," Journal for Labour Market Research, Springer;Institute for Employment Research/ Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), vol. 55(1), pages 1-13, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jlabrs:v:55:y:2021:i:1:d:10.1186_s12651-021-00287-z
    DOI: 10.1186/s12651-021-00287-z

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. José María Ortiz-Lozano & Pedro César Martínez-Morán & Iván Fernández-Muñoz, 2021. "Difficulties for Teleworking of Public Employees in the Spanish Public Administration," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(16), pages 1-14, August.
    4. Ainaa, Carmen & Brunetti, Irene & Mussida, Chiara & Scicchitano, Sergio, 2021. "Who lost the most? Distributive effects of COVID-19 pandemic," GLO Discussion Paper Series 829, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    5. Isaure Delaporte & Julia Escobar & Werner Peña, 2021. "The distributional consequences of social distancing on poverty and labour income inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 34(4), pages 1385-1443, October.
    6. José M. Ortiz-Lozano & Pedro C. Martínez-Morán & Víctor L. de Nicolás, 2022. "Teleworking in the Public Administration: An Analysis Based on Spanish Civil Servants’ Perspectives During the Pandemic," SAGE Open, , vol. 12(1), pages 21582440221, March.
    7. Aleem, Majid & Sufyan, Muhammad & Ameer, Irfan & Mustak, Mekhail, 2023. "Remote work and the COVID-19 pandemic: An artificial intelligence-based topic modeling and a future agenda," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 154(C).
    8. Anna Kurowska & Anna Matysiak & Beata Osiewalska, 2023. "Working from Home During Covid-19 Pandemic and Changes to Fertility Intentions Among Parents," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 39(1), pages 1-31, December.
    9. Emil Mihaylov, 2022. "Working from Home in the Netherlands: Looking Inside the Blackbox of Work and Occupations," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 22-096/VI, Tinbergen Institute.
    10. Alipour, Jean-Victor & Falck, Oliver & Schüller, Simone, 2023. "Germany’s capacity to work from home," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 151(C).
    11. Ourania Tzoraki & Svetlana Dimitrova & Marin Barzakov & Saad Yaseen & Vasilis Gavalas & Hani Harb & Abas Haidari & Brian P. Cahill & Alexandra Ćulibrk & Ekaterini Nikolarea & Eleni Andrianopulu & Miro, 2021. "The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Working Conditions, Employment, Career Development and Well-Being of Refugee Researchers," Societies, MDPI, vol. 11(3), pages 1-13, July.
    12. Jaroslaw Morawski, 2022. "Impact of working from home on European office rents and vacancy rates," Zeitschrift für Immobilienökonomie (German Journal of Real Estate Research), Springer;Gesellschaft für Immobilienwirtschaftliche Forschung e. V., vol. 8(2), pages 173-188, October.
    13. Masayuki Morikawa, 2023. "Productivity dynamics of remote work during the COVID‐19 pandemic," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(3), pages 317-331, July.
    14. Andrea Vinueza-Cabezas & Gabriel Osejo-Taco & Alejandro Unda-López & Clara Paz & Paula Hidalgo-Andrade, 2022. "A Comparison of Working Conditions and Workers’ Perceptions among On-Site, Telework, and Hybrid Workers in Ecuador during the COVID-19 Pandemic," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 19(21), pages 1-13, November.
    15. Kawaguchi, Daiji & Motegi, Hiroyuki, 2021. "Who can work from home? The roles of job tasks and HRM practices," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 62(C).
    16. Mauro Caselli & Andrea Fracasso & Sergio Scicchitano, 2022. "From the lockdown to the new normal: individual mobility and local labor market characteristics following the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 35(4), pages 1517-1550, October.
    17. Xi, Haoning & Li, Qin & Hensher, David A. & Nelson, John D. & Ho, Chinh, 2023. "Quantifying the impact of COVID-19 on travel behavior in different socio-economic segments," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 98-112.
    18. Carmen Aina & Irene Brunetti & Chiara Mussida & Sergio Scicchitano, 2023. "Distributional effects of COVID-19," Eurasian Business Review, Springer;Eurasia Business and Economics Society, vol. 13(1), pages 221-256, March.

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    More about this item


    COVID-19; Working from home; Job advertisements; Unconventional data;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)
    • R32 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Real Estate Markets, Spatial Production Analysis, and Firm Location - - - Other Spatial Production and Pricing Analysis


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