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Wales has the lowest proportion of jobs in the UK that could be done from home, study finds

5 August 2020

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Welsh workers have fewer opportunities to work from home compared to those in the rest of the UK, analysis suggests.

The briefing paper from Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre estimates that just under two-fifths (39.9%) of the Welsh workforce are able to work from home, a figure that is below the UK average of 45.2% and significantly below London where 58.7% are able to work from home.

However, Wales does compare favourably to some major European economies, including Germany, Ireland, and Finland.

The research finds that the potential for working from home varies by sector and occupation and is correlated with higher income levels.

Senior, managerial and professional staff are more likely to be able to work from home, suggesting higher-income earners will have been better able to manage social distancing through working from home.

Meanwhile, some sectors and occupations, generally lower paid, have very little or no scope to increase the extent of homeworking, increasing potential health risks as well as the risk of losing employment, hours, and income during the crisis. These include the construction, retail and hospitality sectors.

Report author Jesús Rodríguez commented: “The share of jobs that can be performed away from workplaces has been an important factor in the economy’s performance during this crisis. With nearly two-fifths of Welsh workers able to work from home, the Welsh economy has had scope to keep functioning under social distancing measures.

“However, those working from home during and after the crisis tend to be higher-earners. Younger and less educated workers tend to be in occupations and industries with very little potential for homeworking."

This is another way in which the pandemic will exacerbate existing economic inequalities in the Welsh economy. Governments should focus on supporting those bearing the economic burden in exposed and precarious sectors.

The research indicates that a permanent shift to greater levels of homeworking will have significant economic implications, from influencing regional productivity levels across the UK, to reducing demand for certain jobs.

Jesús Rodríguez said: “It is not known how long mobility restrictions will remain in place over coming months and how working patterns may be changed over the longer term.

“The shift to homeworking will affect parts of Wales differently. For example, some areas have the lowest coverage of decent broadband speeds in the UK, limiting the scope for working from home in those areas. Homeworking will also have a significant effect on the demand for jobs, such as cleaning or catering services that currently service concentrations of office workers in towns and cities.

“Though new jobs will also emerge, the role of government will be to manage such a transition, primarily by offering a more comprehensive safety net and support for those affected.”

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