Research summary – Telework and employment change due to COVID-19

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

Official title: Teleworking and employment changes due to COVID-19: Evidence from Canada

Authors of report: Peter Foltin and Michelle Laing

Why this study

When COVID-19 arrived in Canada, many workers began to telework. However, little was known about these workers. This study finds out which jobs can be done from home and who works in these jobs. It checks to see if people who could work from home lost fewer jobs.

What we did

Two American economists, Dingel and Neiman, categorized all American jobs based on the ability of workers to telework. They used the O*Net database to do this. This study employed their method to categorize all Canadian jobs.

This study used Census 2016 to find out who can telework and who cannot. It also used the Labour Force Survey to determine if people who could telework lost more jobs than those that could not, from February to April 2020.

What we found

This study produced many findings about who could telework:

  • 40.2% of all Canadian workers could telework
  • women are more likely than men to be able to telework
  • Canadians aged 15 to 24 are less likely to be able to telework
  • telework is more likely to be possible for high-skill workers, and
  • recent immigrants were less likely to be able to telework

Job loss during the first wave of the pandemic was related to telework:

  • there was more job loss for those that could not work from home
  • low-paying jobs saw more job loss
  • low-skill jobs saw more job loss, and
  • women saw more job loss in spite of being more likely to be able to work from home

What it means

From February to April 2020, employment fell by 2.8 million. The Government of Canada created new benefits for affected workers. This helps the design of programs to better address the needs of Canadians. It also helps prepare for the response to future waves of the pandemic.

This study also showed that people who could telework tended not to lose their jobs. This worked best when thinking about specific jobs. However, other factors may lead to job loss. For example, women saw more job loss even though they were more likely to be able to telework. This is likely related to more women working part-time and more responsibilities caused by school closures.

Contact Us

Skills and Employment Branch, Labour Market Information Directorate, Policy Research and Geomatics Division


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