Cem Özgüzel, Paolo Veneri, Rudiger Ahrend, 15 July 2020

Places differ in the degree to which they can maintain economic activity through remote working in the face of shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This column assesses the capacity of regions in 30 developed economies to shift to remote working during a lockdown. Based on individual-level data on occupations from labour force surveys, it shows that cities – and in particular capitals – typically have a higher share of occupations suitable for remote working. This may offset some of the stronger negative economic impacts of COVID-related policies on cities. Regional disparities in the capacity for remote working also clearly reflect the level of education of the workforce.

Toshihiro Okubo, 25 June 2020

The Japanese government’s policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic was to ask people to refrain from leaving their homes and to encourage teleworking. This column examines the effect of COVID-19 on the uptake of teleworking in a country that has the lowest use among developed countries. Overall, teleworking increased about 4 percentage points from January to March 2020, driven by industries and occupations related to information and located in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Teleworking is not suited to face-to-face services and manual labour, which saw substantial declines in worker incomes.

Richard Baldwin, 29 May 2020

Has Covid accelerated the future of work? This column argues that Covid has changed the future of work via four shocks: massive job losses, massive digital transformations, massive debt burdens, and massive costs of socially distanced office space. These matter in two ways. First, due to sunk cost hysteresis, re-hiring workers is very different than retaining workers. Second, the digital transformations, office-space costs, and debt burdens will push firms to replace domestic workers with ‘telemigrants’ or ‘white-collar robots’. The jobs that return will be those that require face-to-face interactions and involve tasks that AI cannot handle. 

Janine Berg, Florence Bonnet, Sergei Soares, 11 May 2020

Working from home can help mitigate the public health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. This column estimates the share of workers across the different regions of the world who could potentially perform their activities from home, using a Delphi survey of labour market experts from across the world and then weighing these estimates by countries’ occupational shares. The analysis shows that approximately one in six workers at the global level, and just over one in four in advanced countries, could potentially work from home.  

Teresa Barbieri, Gaetano Basso, Sergio Scicchitano, 27 April 2020

Many countries are now designing exit strategies from the sectoral lockdowns put in place to contain the outbreak of Covid-19. This column provides new evidence from Italy on the degree of workplace risk of exposure to the virus. Unsurprisingly, the health sector is the most exposed to diseases and infections, while the services sector is the most risky in terms of physical proximity. These and other findings can help in deciding which activities to reopen first and where to reinforce security measures.

Masayuki Morikawa, 10 April 2020

Japan, similar to many countries hit by the COVID-19 shock, has experienced a sudden increase in people working from home. This column exploits the teleworking arrangements implemented at the author’s workplace to investigate the impact on productivity. In a survey, workers indicate that they are, on average, less productive at home than in the office. While some of the reasons for this, such as lack of familiarity with remote access software, will fade over time, other factors suggest that a productivity gap will remain.

Tito Boeri, Alessandro Caiumi, Marco Paccagnella, 09 April 2020

In getting people back to work before a vaccine is developed, policymakers will have to balance medical risks and economic risks. This column presents some calculations on the number of jobs that can be carried out without putting workers at risk of being infected by COVID-19. The findings suggest that the share of jobs that can be performed without putting workers’ health at risk is limited, and probably does not reach 50%. Importantly, this share is even lower in strategic industries that supply the health sector.

Jonathan Dingel, Brent Neiman, 07 April 2020

Evaluating the economic impact of ‘social distancing’ measures taken to arrest the spread of COVID-19 raises a fundamental question about the modern economy: How many jobs can be performed at home? This column describes the results of classifying the feasibility of working at home for all occupations. In the US, 37% of jobs can plausibly be performed at home.


CEPR Policy Research