Working from home during coronavirus is not a privilege everyone has

As the coronavirus cases continue to rise in America, the US government has advised people to work from home. But working from home is not a privilege everyone has.

Only one in four US workers have a job that allows them to work from home according to the American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The survey, which was last conducted in 2017-18 asked workers aged 15 and over whether they were able to work from home and just 28% said yes.

Of course, Covid-19 is likely to change these numbers, as many employers are forced to rethink their business practices completely. However, the survey still gives an insight into who in the US has greater employment flexibility in these difficult times.

The industry where workers were most likely to say they could work from home was financial activities (ironically, also the industry where employees are highly likely to have savings to tide them over during a period of employment). Not only did 57% of people who work in finance say that they could work from home, but 47% said they did work from home and were paid for doing so.

After finance, those working in professional and business services were most likely to say they could work from home (53%) followed by information (also 53%). The industries where workers found it most difficult to work from home were leisure and hospitality (just 9% of whom were able to work from home), as well as agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (11%).

The survey also reveals other trends in who can and cannot work from home. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those on the lowest incomes are least likely to be able to work from home – just 9% of workers who had earnings in the lowest 25th percentile said they could work from home, compared with 62% of workers in the highest 25th percentile. Full-time workers were twice as likely as part-time workers to say that they can work from home.

While 40% of Asian workers could work from home, that rate was 30% for white workers and 20% for black workers. Hispanic workers were half as likely as non-Hispanic workers to be able to work from home (16% compared with 31%).

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