Working from home has not been a common feature of employment in Ireland

The COVID-19 health crisis has resulted in most employees being asked to work from home. The ability of employees to work from home is important as it may limit job losses and the associated economic contraction. Furthermore, as public health measures are relaxed and economies reopen, ensuring as many people as possible work from home will help control against another spike in virus cases. Finally, while combining working from home with childminding is not a sustainable long-term option, it may alleviate short-term childcare pressures in light of school and crèche closures.

This study examines the incidence and distribution of homeworking in Ireland using recent Irish data from before the COVID-19 crisis. Some of the main findings of the study are as follows:

  • Before the COVID-19 crisis, 14 per cent of employees in Ireland worked from home in some formal capacity, either sometimes, or usually. While working from home in Ireland is somewhat above the European average, figures vary widely from just 1 per cent in Bulgaria to over 30 per cent in Sweden.
  • The number of employees working from home varies substantially by economic sector. The education, ICT and finance sectors contain the highest percentage of employees that work from home, at 37 per cent, 36 per cent and 26 per cent respectively. Just 2 per cent of employees in accommodation and food work from home.
  • We attempt to identify essential employees based on the official government list of essential workers. Approximately 23 per cent of employees are in the set of essential occupations that we examine. Just 6 per cent of essential employees work from home compared to a figure of 16 per cent for other employees.
  • Our results show that males, Irish nationals, workers aged over 30, full-time employees and those in higher-paid occupations have a higher probability of working from home. Couples with children are more likely to work from home, compared to lone parents.

One of the report’s authors Dr Paul Redmond commented, “Working from home is not a common feature of employment in Ireland, especially among lower-paid occupations. For some jobs, it may be feasible to increase the capacity to work from home. This could help protect jobs and limit the economic contraction that will follow the COVID-19 crisis.”