Under embargo until 06:00 AM, Tuesday, 13/09/2022
Working from home became much more common as a result of the pandemic, although not among all workers in the economy. A new study conducted by the Taub Center examines working from home in Israel during the pandemic and finds that in Israel — as in other countries — it became particularly common among workers from the strongest population groups. Workers with less education worked from home at lower rates, and the likelihood of Arabs and Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) working from home was lower than for non-Haredi Jews. Furthermore, the rates of working from home are higher among women than among men, and parents of children under the age of 9 — and in particular mothers — work from home more than those without children of those ages. The information and communication sector, which includes many high tech workers, had a particularly high rate of working from home, which continued even during the periods without lockdowns.
The study was carried out by Noam Zontag who at the time was a researcher at the Taub Center (and is currently a researcher in the Research Department of the Bank of Israel); Shavit Madhala, a researcher at the Taub Center; and Prof. Benjamin Bental, Principal Researcher and chair of the Taub Center Economic Policy Program. The research is based on the CBS Labor Force Survey, which, beginning in September 2020, also includes data on number of hours worked from home. The study examines the time 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 (25–64). 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%–15%) and following the third lockdown (6%–7%).
Which groups are more likely to work from home?
The rates of working from home during the second and third lockdowns were higher on average among women than men (for example, 31% vs 20% during the second lockdown); however, they were similar during the periods without a lockdown. Furthermore, parents of young children (up to the age of 9) worked from home at higher rates than those without children of those ages, and mothers of young children worked from home at higher rates than fathers.
Among the Haredi and Arab populations, the rates of working from home were lower than among non-Haredi Jews. With respect to education, workers with an academic education worked from home at higher rates than workers with lower levels of education. Thus, the rate of working from home among college graduates was about 39% at the height of the second lockdown while the rate was 17% among those with only a Bagrut (matriculation) certificate and 5% among those without a Bagrut certificate. A breakdown by economic sector showed that the rate of working from home was higher in the information and communication sector than in other sectors, a phenomenon observed both during the lockdowns and during the periods without a lockdown.
Apart from the rates of working from home presented above, the study looked at the factors influencing the likelihood of working from home (not during lockdowns) and the amount of work hours worked from home among workers working from home, while controlling for other characteristics. Following are the main conclusions from the analysis:
Education: The likelihood of a worker with more education, and in particular a college graduate, working from home is 8 percentage points higher than for a worker with lower education levels. It was also found that among workers working from home, the share of work hours worked from home for workers with an academic education was 9 percentage points higher than for workers without a Bagrut certificate and the share for workers with a Bagrut certificate was 6 percentage points higher.
Sector: In a breakdown according to population group, it was found that the likelihood of Haredi workers working from home was 3 percentage points lower than for non-Haredi Jewish workers and that of Arab workers was 7 percentage points lower. It was also found that among workers working from home, the share of work hours worked from home by an Arab worker was 8 percentage points lower than for a non-Haredi Jewish worker; however, there was no statistically significant difference between a Haredi worker and a non-Haredi Jewish worker.
Gender: The likelihood of a woman working from home is higher than for a man; however, the effect of gender declines for workers with a Bagrut certificate or an academic education. Among workers who work from home, the share of work hours worked from home among women was higher than among men with the same characteristics. On the other hand, there was no gender difference among workers with a Bagrut certificate or an academic education.
Parents of children up to the age of 9: This characteristic increases the likelihood of working from home by 2 percentage points, and, for mothers, by an additional percentage point. On the other hand, among workers working from home the share of work hours worked from home is not related to parenthood for either men or women.
The authors summarize as follows: “It appears that working from home is not suited to everyone. Further research is needed in order 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 work place.” In order to achieve insights on this issue, the authors recommend a systematic effort to gather information on labor productivity and levels of satisfaction among workers and employers. This can be done by means of, for example, 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. Frequent monitoring of the effectivity 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 policy makers.
The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel is an independent, non-partisan socioeconomic research institute. The Center 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 in order to impact the decision-making process in Israel and to advance the well-being of all Israelis.