Data from Statistics Canada suggests working from home is an option unavailable to large parts of the Canadian economy. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)

Home office not an option for large parts of Canadian economy

Workers in food and accommodation, as well as retail least likely to work from home

Data from Statistics Canada pre-dating the COVID-19 pandemic suggests working from home is an option unavailable to large parts of the Canadian economy.

Data from the 2016 General Social Survey (GSS) collected in 2015-2016 show more than 45 per cent of employees in the broad occupational categories of manufacturing and utilities, trades, transport and equipment operators, sales and services, as well as health occupations reported not being able to do their job from home.

Employees in three industries — transportation and warehousing, accommodation and food services and retail trade — were the least likely to report that they could work from home. At least two of those industries — accommodation and food services, as well as retail trade — are what Stats Canada calls “public-facing activities” heavily impacted by social distancing rules. Not surprisingly, they have recorded among the largest declines in employment according to new figures released last week.

RELATED: Unemployment in Greater Victoria rose to 4.6 per cent in March

On the other end of the spectrum, employees in professional, scientific and technical services were the most likely to make that claim.

Based on the 2015-16 data, just under 14 per cent of Canadian employees Canada reported working all or some of their hours from home as part of their regular schedule in 2015-2016.

“More recent evidence from the Canadian Internet Use Survey suggests that in 2018, among the vast majority of workers who used the internet, 22.9 per cent had teleworked at least once during the previous 12 months,” it reads.

Overall, 7.5 per cent of workers worked at the same address as their home with significant differences by occupation and industry. More than one third of the self-employed worked from home, while ‘traditional’ employees accounted for less than four per cent of home-based workers.


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