COVID-19: Likelihood of working from home dependent on money, gender - study

The research is based on the Central Bureau of Statistics Labor Force Survey that, beginning in September 2020, also includes data on the number of hours worked from home.

 Working from home (photo credit: Thought Catalog/Unsplash)
Working from home
(photo credit: Thought Catalog/Unsplash)

Israelis from high socioeconomic groups were able to work online from home during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many employees with less education and less access to computer equipment – such as the ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors – did not have that option.

This was a conclusion of a new study conducted by Jerusalem’s Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel. It also found that rates of working from home were higher among women – and especially mothers and parents of children under the age of nine – than among men and those without children of those ages.

The information and communication sector, which includes many hi-tech workers, had a particularly high rate of working from home, which continued even during periods without lockdowns.

How did the researchers figure it out? 

The study was conducted by economist Noam Zontag, who at the time was a researcher at the Taub Center (and is currently a researcher in the Bank of Israel’s research department); Shavit Madhala, a researcher at the center who has a master’s degree in environmental economics and management of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and Prof. Benjamin Bental, principal researcher and chairman of the center’s economic policy program.

 Economist Noam Zontag. (credit: TAUB CENTER FOR SOCIAL POLICY STUDIES) Economist Noam Zontag. (credit: TAUB CENTER FOR SOCIAL POLICY STUDIES)

The research is based on the Central Bureau of Statistics’ Labor Force Survey that beginning in September 2020, also includes data on the number of hours worked from home. The study examined the period from September 2020 until November 2021, which includes the second and third lockdowns, the recovery following the third lockdown and Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021.

The study includes only salaried workers of working age (25 to 64). The data show that the rates of working from home, measured as total work hours worked from home out of total work hours, were significantly higher during the lockdowns (about 25% during the second lockdown and 23% during the third) than during the periods between the lockdowns (13% to 15%) and following the third lockdown (6%-7%).

The rates of working from home during the second and third lockdowns were higher on average among women than men (31% vs 20% during the second lockdown), but were similar during the periods without lockdown.

 Researcher Shavit Madhala. (credit: TAUB CENTER FOR SOCIAL POLICY STUDIES) Researcher Shavit Madhala. (credit: TAUB CENTER FOR SOCIAL POLICY STUDIES)

The rate of working from home among college graduates was 39% at the height of the second lockdown, while it was only 17% among those with only a matriculation certificate and five percent among those who did not matriculate. A breakdown by economic sector showed that the rate of working from home was higher in the information and communication sector than in other sector – a phenomenon observed both during the lockdowns and during the periods without a lockdown.

What's the breakdown by gender? 

While the likelihood of a woman working from home was higher than for a man, the effect of gender declines for workers who matriculated or had an academic education.

“It appears that working from home is not suited to everyone,” the Taub Center researchers concluded. “Further research is needed to fully understand the advantages of working from home and to determine which economic sectors, occupations and types of workers and employers will benefit the most. There is also a need to determine the proper balance between working from home and working in the workplace.”

To learn more, the authors recommended a systematic effort to gather information on labor productivity and levels of satisfaction among workers and employers. To do this, they used periodic surveys of employers and workers over time or by monitoring the use of existing hybrid models, such as those already in the pilot stage in various government ministries.

 Prof. Benjamin Bental. (credit: TAUB CENTER FOR SOCIAL POLICY STUDIES) Prof. Benjamin Bental. (credit: TAUB CENTER FOR SOCIAL POLICY STUDIES)

Frequent monitoring of the effectiveness of the transition to this type of work practice in various sectors and occupations, and the publishing of the results will provide important information that can be used by employers in the private and public sectors and by the relevant policymakers, they stated.

The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel is an independent, non-partisan socioeconomic research institute that provides decision-makers and the public with research and findings on some of the most critical issues facing Israel in the areas of education, health, welfare, labor markets and economic policy. It hopes to impact the decision-making process in Israel and advance the well-being of all Israelis.