A survey by the International Labor Organization (ILO) on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the labor market showed that around 23 million workers in Latin America and the Caribbean began to carry out their activities from home during the worst moment of the sanitary crisis, in the second half of last year.
According to ILO, between 20% and 30% of wage earners were able to work from home during the lockdown measures. Before the pandemic, that figure was less than 3%.
Brazil, however, ranked last in adopting teleworking during the pandemic in Latin America, behind its neighbors Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. According to the report, 16% of the salaried people were doing telework between April and June of last year, a percentage that decreased to 13% when considering all employed Brazilians (including informal and self-employed workers).
Regarding the private sector workers and the public sector workers in Brazil, the report shows that the percentage of private workers who did telework was 11.4%; among the public sector workers, this percentage was 24.6%.
The report highlights that “informal workers, self-employed, young, with lower qualifications and with low earnings, who experienced the greatest job losses and hours worked, especially in the first half of 2020, had much less access to teleworking.”
For comparison, among the Latin American countries observed in the study, Peru, whose available data do not differ between salaried and informal and self-employed workers, had 30% of its workers in teleworking. In Argentina, this percentage reached 26% and in Uruguay, 23%; in Chile and Costa Rica, the number of workers carrying out their activities from home reached peaks of 22% of the employed population.
Future of work
The global health crisis made teleworking more popular, but it was already a trend for the future of work. The ILO analysis states that although telework already existed before the pandemic, it mainly covered self-employed workers or workers in special situations and was combined with face-to-face work, “but in the context of quarantine, it became, in many cases, the exclusive modality of work”.
“Teleworking helped cushion the negative impacts of the crisis on labour markets, contributing to the preservation of millions of jobs. After the recovery, it will surely continue to be an option and generate new opportunities,” said Vinícius Pinheiro, ILO director for Latin America and the Caribbean.