At least 23 million people worked remotely in Latin America during the COVID-19 pandemic – SWISSLAIN

A journalist working remotely during the COVID-19 quarantine. (UNICEF / Bruno Amsellem / Divergence)

Since the isolation measures went into effect, between 20 and 30% of wage earners who were already employed, have worked from their homes. Before the pandemic, that number was less than 3%. Remote work has enabled business and job continuity, and represented an unexpected leap into the future of work, leaving an open scenario of opportunities and challenges for the region.

Telework has stormed labor markets in Latin America and the Caribbean as a way to counter the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing activities to continue in some sectors in the context of a devastating decline in economic activity, with job losses, reduced incomes and business closures.

Preliminary estimates from the International Labor Organization indicate that at the worst moment of the crisis, in the second quarter of 2020, about 23 million people worked remotely in the region.

This represents between 20 and 30% of wage earners who were already employed. Before the pandemic, that number was less than 3%.

“The crisis has accelerated trends in labor markets, leaving a feeling that, along with the tragic situation of job losses, the future of work is unfolding earlier than expected,” said the director of the Latin American and Latin American Organization. The Caribbean, Vinicius Pinheiro.

Remote work has come to stay

Remote work helped mitigate the negative effects of the crisis on labor markets, which contributed to preserving millions of jobs. After the recovery, Pinheiro added, it will certainly remain an option and generate new opportunities, although it is clear that he is still pending to respond to the challenges for both workers and companies that had to implement them quickly.

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The report highlights that although it is too early to predict the effective scope of remote work, it will be necessary for countries and societies to be prepared to assume that this method is here to stay, either as a convenient solution for some people and businesses, or through the proliferation of hybrid forms that combine Work face to face and work from home.

The analysis of the United Nations agency indicates that although working from home did exist before the outbreak of the epidemic, it mainly included the self-employed, or in special cases it was combined with work in the enterprise, “but in the context the quarantine became, in Many cases, exclusive mode of action.”

Not everyone has benefited from remote work

However, not all workers were able to use this method. And it was the formal, well-paid people, those with a high level of education and stable working relationships, in the professional, organizational and managerial professions, and of course those with access to the technologies necessary to perform their tasks, who recorded the largest increases in remote work”, explained Roxana Maurizio, specialist Regional Institute in Labor Economics and author of the report “Challenges and Opportunities for Remote Work in Latin America and the Caribbean”.

Conversely, they had less access to remote work “informal workers, the self-employed, youth, low-skilled and low-income workers, who experienced the largest job and hour losses, especially in the first half of 2020” .

According to Maurizio, it is also important to consider that in a region characterized by labor structures with low IT use and high technological gaps, it was expected that the prevalence of home work, and in particular teleworking, was not homogeneous among different groups of workers.

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On the other hand, the specialist added that before this crisis, remote work was considered an alternative to achieve a better reconciliation between family life and work, but during the closure caused by the pandemic, the situation was complicated because schools were also closed and schools closed. Demands for care have increased.

“This particularly affected women, because family responsibilities still mostly fell on their shoulders,” Maurizio said.

The most important related challenges

Although the region has recently reported progress in regulating remote work, the unprecedented increase in this method has revealed many challenges that need to be addressed.

The report highlights some of the challenges to addressing the challenges of remote work:

  • The principle of voluntary and agreement between the parties
  • Organization and working time
  • Safety and health at work
  • Equipment and work items
  • Protecting workers’ right to privacy
  • Gender dimension and remote work
  • The role of social actors
  • Labor relationship and compliance with legislation

The report states that “without adequate controls, working from home can lead to work relationships that do not recognize dependency and, therefore, an increase in self-employment or disguised work relationships”.

Social security issues, compliance with days, freedom of association, access to job training, and health and safety in the workplace, among others, are some of the issues to consider.

The report highlights that dialogue between governments, employers and workers is key to addressing these issues.

“From a corporate perspective, remote work also presents challenges to ensuring continuity of operations and maintaining the levels of productivity required for their survival,” he adds.

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The ILO says: “It is necessary to consider lessons learned during the pandemic,” but also notes that for future analyzes on this issue “it is necessary to have official statistics that provide adequate, comparable and up-to-date information” on remote work in Latin America and the Caribbean .

Swisslatin / ONU Noticias (07.07.2021)

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