it’s the geographic inequality of remote work

The future of remote working is at a delicate time. In October, LinkedIn warned that the share of remote jobs may have peaked in the US and UK. In addition, in November, Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, announced the elimination of telecommuting for employees of the social network, and Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap, announced that workers would return to work in the office for at least four days. per day. week. .

At the same time, new data on telework are constantly emerging, such as its economic consequences in certain American cities, called the donut effect, or the difficulties many employees have in being able to telework, as indicated by a recently published report. by the London School of Economics and Political Science.

More telecommuting options in a large company. The study, titled ‘How many jobs do you think you can do from home? Not as much as you think! and carried out in Italy, indicates that 70% of large companies with 250 or more workers had at least one employee teleworking during the 2020 quarantine, while only 1% of companies with less than 10 workers applied a remote work formula . In addition, the geographical distribution coincides with the level of economic development of each region and, in general, teleworking is more common in large cities than in less developed areas.

Geographical inequality in Italy. In other words, there is more teleworking in the cities of northern Italy, where economic development is greater, than in those of the south: more than 21% of employees in the northern regions of Lazio and Lombardy teleworked during confinement, while in Calabria, Molise, Puglia and Sicily, areas located to the south, this percentage only reached 2% in the same period.

Spain, with a similar diagnosis. On the other hand, in our country this geographical inequality is also reproduced, since, according to INE, the regions with the highest percentage of teleworkers in 2022 were Comunidad de Madrid, Cataluña and País Vasco, far from other regions such as the Balearic Islands, Ceuta and melilla.

There is a territorial imbalance in Europe. And there’s more. According to Eurostat, while between 2019 and 2021 telework increased by 8% across the EU, in Southern and Eastern Europe, 43 regions had a percentage of teleworkers below 5%. There is therefore a link between the possibility of teleworking and the regional economic level or the type of activity.

The city is not everything. It is precisely this element that, according to Riccardo Crescenzi, professor of geographical economics at the London School of Economics and one of the authors of the study, should be taken into account when establishing policies favoring telework: “Before declaring that offices and our cities are dead, politicians must beware of seeing the world only through the eyes of the metropolitan elite (…). Not everyone telecommutes or can telecommute, even if they wanted to,” he said.

There is not so much telework. In this sense, the report highlights a discrepancy between the actual telework figures that occurred in Italy during the 2020 lockdowns and the estimates of some studies: in particular, the surveys overestimated by 50% the number of remote jobs existing during the first months of the pandemic.

Public Support Key. To reduce this gap between those who can telework and those who cannot, Dr. Davide Rigo, co-author of the study, proposes to promote the digital transition, for which public policies must aim to eliminate barriers. than mid-sized small and medium-sized businesses to implement digital practices. To give an example in Spain, the Ministry of Industry has announced an economic aid plan to finance companies that decide to introduce a four-day working week.

Image: Avi Richards/Unsplash

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