Working from home is an important feature of the contemporary world of work. Long associated with labour-intensive, repetitive work in the industrial sector (“industrial homework”), it also encompasses higher-skilled workers on digital labour platforms as well as remote workers (“teleworkers”) in service industries. In both the North and South, homeworkers provide valuable inputs into global production models, in a range of industries, both domestic and international. Most homeworkers around the world are women, many of whom must stay at home as a result of care responsibilities, and thus turn to homework as a source of income. Homework is also characterized by high levels of informality.
While data on homework is limited, according to ILO estimates, in 2019, there were 260 million workers, accounting for 7.9% of the employed population, in the broader category of “home-based work”, which also includes work carried out by independent, self-employed workers in their home (or adjacent grounds or premises). Of this amount, 147 million were women, amounting to 11.5% of women’s employment share (5.6% of employment for men). These figures do not include unpaid care work in one’s own home, paid domestic work and care work in the households of others, or subsistence production for household consumption.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the share of the employed population working from home increased exponentially. While it is too soon to know how many workers shifted to remote work, the ILO estimates that while not all occupations can be done at home, many could ̶ approximately one in six at the global level and just over one in four in advanced countries.
Across the globe, 7.9% of workers were home-based in 2019 (or latest year):
Source: Own compilations based on household surveys (74 countries), ISSP (14 countries), EU LFS (28 countries), EU Working Conditions Survey (2 countries).
Useful external work:
- The European Union’s Commodification of Bulgarian Homeworkers: Regulating Informal Labour in Global Production Networks
- Homeworkers in global supply chains: A review of the literature