557 million people worked from home during the first lockdowns

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557 million people were able to telework worldwide during the first pandemic lockdowns in spring 2020.

In the second quarter of 2020, 557 million people, or 18% of workers, worked from home. These figures confirm the estimates made in May 2020 on the share of teleworkers in the world.

How many workers were doing their professional activity from home during the first lockdowns of spring 2020? According to data from 33 surveys across 31 countries collected by VOXeu, the policy portal of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, estimates of the number of teleworkers worldwide made last year are proving accurate. As of the second quarter of 2020, 557 million people worked from home. This represents 18% of global employment.

"This estimate is remarkably close to the previous estimate from May 2020," point out the authors of this recent study. Its three authors, Sergei Soares, Florence Bonnet and Janine Berg, published an estimate of the percentage of teleworkers in the world (17.4%) on May 11,2020. According to them, "approximately one in six workers at the global level were potentially able to work from home." Almost a year later, the estimates are confirmed.

Proportion of teleworkers changes with income levels

Forty-three percent of telecommuting-friendly jobs were in high-income countries, 19% in upper-middle-income countries and 14% in lower-middle-income and low-income countries. So, depending on the country and income, the percentage of teleworkers varies: "[T]he higher the income of the country, the higher the percentage of workers carrying out their work from home," the study explains.

In detail, the confidence interval of the sample on which VoxEU relies in the United States, for example, was quite precise: between 35.4 and 35.5% of the country's workers worked from home. For the rest of the high-income countries, the range was already wider, between 17.8% and 33%.

However, the limited number of countries included in this study only allows an approximative extrapolation of a global figure. Some highly populated countries, such as China, India and Indonesia, are not included.

Louis Bolla