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Teleworkability and the COVID-19 crisis: a new digital divide?




The paper discusses the extent of teleworking in the EU before and during the COVID-19 outbreak, develops a conceptual analysis to identify the jobs that can be done from home and those that cannot, and on this basis quantifies the fraction of employees that are in teleworkable occupations across EU countries, sectors and socio-economic profiles. Using the occupational task descriptions provided in the Italian Indagine Campionaria delle Professioni, with additional indicators from the European Working Conditions survey, we estimate that 37% of dependent employment in the EU is currently teleworkable – very close to the estimates of teleworking indicated in real-time surveys during the COVID-19 crisis. Because of differences in the employment structure, the fraction of telewokable employment ranges between 33-44% in all but five EU member states. Even starker differences in teleworkability emerge between high- and low-paid workers, between white- and blue-collar workers, as well as by gender. Results suggests that that the large expansion of telework since the COVID-19 outbreak has been strongly skewed towards high-paid white-collar employment. Yet, enforced closures have likely resulted in many new teleworkers amongst low and mid-level clerical and administrative workers who previously had limited access to this working arrangement. This is consistent with the evidence showing that, beyond differences in the industrial and occupational structures, the pre-outbreak large differences in telework prevalence across EU countries were largely driven by other factors, notably the organisation of work, regulation, and management culture. This paper also discusses some policy implications that the current experience of telework may have for the future of work.

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  • Matteo Sostero & Santo Milasi & John Hurley & Enrique Fernandez-Macias & Martina Bisello, 2020. "Teleworkability and the COVID-19 crisis: a new digital divide?," JRC Working Papers on Labour, Education and Technology 2020-05, Joint Research Centre (Seville site).
  • Handle: RePEc:ipt:laedte:202005

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Adams-Prassl, Abi & Boneva, Teodora & Golin, Marta & Rauh, Christopher, 2020. "Inequality in the impact of the coronavirus shock: Evidence from real time surveys," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 189(C).
    2. Armanda Cetrulo & Dario Guarascio & Maria Enrica Virgillito, 2020. "The Privilege of Working From Home at the Time of Social Distancing," Intereconomics: Review of European Economic Policy, Springer;ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics;Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), vol. 55(3), pages 142-147, May.
    3. Armanda Cetrulo & Dario Guarascio & Maria Enrica Virgillito, 2019. "Anatomy of the Italian occupational structure: concentrated power and distributed knowledge," LEM Papers Series 2019/34, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    4. Enrique Fernandez-Macias & David Klenert & Jose-Ignacio Anton, 2020. "Not so disruptive yet? Characteristics, distribution and determinants of robots in Europe," JRC Working Papers on Labour, Education and Technology 2020-03, Joint Research Centre (Seville site).
    5. Lutz Gschwind & Oscar Vargas, 2019. "Telework and its effects in Europe," Chapters, in: Jon C. Messenger (ed.),Telework in the 21st Century, chapter 1, pages 36-75, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    6. Jean-Noël Barrot & Basile Grassi & Julien Sauvagnat, 2020. "Sectoral Effects of Social Distancing," Working Papers hal-02896730, HAL.
    7. Charles Gottlieb & Jan Grobovsek & Markus Poschke, 2020. "Working from Home across Countries," Cahiers de recherche 07-2020, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
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    Cited by:

    1. Marta Fana & Santo Milasi & Joanna Napierala & Enrique Fernandez-Macias & Ignacio Gonzalez Vazquez, 2020. "Telework, work organisation and job quality during the COVID-19 crisis: a qualitative study," JRC Working Papers on Labour, Education and Technology 2020-11, Joint Research Centre (Seville site).
    2. Antonio Estache & Simon Tooth, 2020. "On the scope for work-from-home in high and upper middle-income countries," Working Papers ECARES 2020-46, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.

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    Teleworking; remote work; work from home; tasks; COVID-19;


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