The Ability to Work from Home Among Workers in Israel
Author: Shavit Madhala, Benjamin Bental Policy Briefs

Executive Summary:

This study examines which workers in Israel have characteristics that enable them to work from home and which do not, using data from the PIAAC survey (Survey of Adult Skills of the OECD). This topic has become all the more important in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

The findings show that workers with a low ability to work from home include 16-25-year-olds, those with low education levels, Arab-Israelis, the self-employed, and those living in socioeconomic weaker residential areas or in the North. The data point towards a potential widening of gaps between workers, a finding that highlights the importance of increasing the use of digital technology, primarily among weaker populations, in order to strengthen their ability to work from home.

Working from home before and during the coronavirus pandemic

Though Israel had a relatively low level of working from home before the pandemic, it has increased during the last decade and soared during the coronavirus crisis.

  • On average, about 5.3% of workers in Europe worked from home in 2019, while in Israel this figure stood at only 4.4%.
  • During the first lockdown in Israel, according to a survey that covered about a third of the employees in the labor force, about 21% of workers worked from home. The rate was especially high in high tech (49%) and the finance and insurance industries (41%).
  • As restrictions relaxed, these rates fell to about 17% in May and 10% in July. However, in the high tech industry about 27% of workers were still working from home in July.
  • About 24% of Israeli businesses invested in improving their infrastructures, allowing greater accessibility for workers working from home.

The ability to work from home in the Israeli labor market

Using data from the PIAAC survey (Survey of Adult Skills of the OECD), job task traits related to the ability to work from home were divided into three categories: tasks requiring physical and manual skills; those requiring social interaction (face-to-face work); and digital work. The first two categories involve skills that are difficult to carry out from home while the third improves the ability to work from home.

The average ability of an Israeli worker to work from home is relatively high: about 0.17 standard deviations higher than the OECD average.

By occupation and industry:

  • Workers in prestigious occupations with high hourly wages have the highest potential for work from home, although managers, who have the highest hourly wage, are less able to work from home than are academics, engineers and technicians.
  • Clerical occupations, although characterized by relatively low hourly wages, are among the occupations with the greatest potential for work from home.
  • Examples of occupations with lower ability to work from home include workers in the fitness industry, workers in the food industry, workers in construction, and salespeople in stores.
  • An examination by industry shows that in information and communications, finance and insurance, and professional, scientific and technical activities, there is a high potential for working from home.
  • In industries such as wholesale and retail trade, construction, and accommodation and food services, the potential for working from home is particularly low.
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By population group:

  • Women have a greater potential to work from home than do men, including those with children under the age of 6. This finding appears to stem from their choice of employment and tendency to work in jobs with characteristics that allow more for work from home.
  • Compared to non-Haredi Jews, Arab Israelis were found to have a lower ability to work from home, while the gap between Haredim and non-Haredi Jews was not statistically significant.
  • In a breakdown by age, clear gaps in the ability to work from home were found only between 16-25-year-olds and 56-65-year-olds; older adults have higher ability to work from home since they generally perform tasks that are not physically demanding and require less social interaction.
  • Workers in the central area of the country have a greater ability to work from home than do workers in the North. Those who work outside of their residential area also have greater potential to work from home relative to those who live close to their place of work, and they also tend to do more digital work.
  • The ability to work from home rises with education level, and it is higher among salaried workers than among the self-employed.

The main variables influencing the ability to work from home are occupation and industry – they are responsible for about 70% of the explained variance in the ability to work from home.

Estimating the share of workers who are able to work from home

Taub Center researchers estimated the share of workers who could work from home using a model based on the OECD PIAAC Survey and data from the July CBS survey (a period of no lockdown). The findings show that:

  • The share of workers in Israel who can work from home was found to be at least 6%.
  • The industries with the highest ability to work from home – information and communication and financial services, where almost one-fifth and one-quarter of workers can work from home, respectively – represent a relatively small share of employment in the workforce (about 6% and 3%, respectively).
  • Industries that represent about a third of the employees in the economy – trade, education, health and welfare services – are characterized by a low portion of workers who can work from home.