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Only 4 in 10 Canadians can feasibly perform their job from home, StatCan says
TORONTO -- New data released by Statistics Canada reveals that only four in 10 Canadians hold jobs that can be reasonably performed remotely.
StatCan data released on Thursday broke down how many Canadians are physically able to work from home, based on their employment, and found that only 39 per cent of Canadians are able to work remotely.
The data looked at the “telework capacity” of different industries to measure how likely they were to be able to work from home.
Finance, insurance and educational service workers had the highest ability to work from home, at 85 per cent. Other jobs that had a high capacity for being performed remotely were professional, scientific and technical services, at 84 per cent.
At the other end of the scale, food services, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting have “almost no telework capacity,” the report reads.
The capacity for work from home varied by province, which the report notes is important since measures to reopen the economy are different across the country.
Ontario, the richest province, has the highest percentage of workers in industries that can work from home. The report notes that Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador have lower telework capacities than the other provinces because they have “relatively large shares of workers in mining, oil and gas extraction.” Lower work from home capacity in Prince Edward Island and the Prairies might be explained by the agricultural industries in those provinces, the report says.
Women were more likely to be able to work from home than men, with a 46 per cent telework capacity compared to men’s 32 per cent.
Those with the lowest ability to work from home are those who are financially vulnerable, according to additional data from 2019. People under the age of 25 and those with less education than a high school diploma had the lowest telework capacity, when looking at age and education as factors.
The report pointed out that these characteristics are often associated with minimum-wage jobs and service jobs. While many retail jobs were cut completely as the pandemic closed clothing stores and malls, other minimum-wage jobs such as those in food production or grocery stores were deemed essential, and have remained open throughout the pandemic.
Although only 39 per cent of Canadians are feasibly able to continue their jobs from home, the data seems to show that pretty much every workforce that had that option took it. The data compared telework capacity with actual telework data that had been reported early in the pandemic, and found that 39 per cent of workers were teleworking during the last full week of March.
“Taken together, these findings suggest the Canadian labour market responded very quickly to the onset of the pandemic by increasing its prevalence of telework to the maximum capacity,” the report states.
The 39 per cent statistic is striking when compared to the percentage of Canadians who worked from home before the pandemic. In 2018, around 13 per cent of Canadians were doing some scheduled work from home hours -- only a tiny raise from the 10 per cent of Canadians who worked from home in 2000, according to the StatCan report.
Although some workplaces are now reopening, most provinces still have rules regarding the amount of people allowed to gather in one area, meaning that we haven’t seen the tail end of working from home.
The report raises the question of whether working from home will be the new normal even after the pandemic, as it is clear there is a higher capacity for remote working than was being taken advantage of before COVID-19. Having more workers stay home -- if they are able to -- could result in less traffic congestion and air pollution, the report says.
However, whether remote working “will improve workers’ mental health, their work-life balance and productivity remains to be seen,” the report acknowledges.