Davos Agenda

Where remote jobs are growing fastest - 4 charts show the locations and sectors 

Over 70% of workers in information technology and insurance have access to remote working, according to a new World Economic Forum report.

Over 70% of workers in information technology and insurance have access to remote working, according to a new World Economic Forum report. Image: Unsplash/ Windows

Ian Shine
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  • The UK is outpacing the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand when it comes to jobs offering remote working, a new report shows.
  • Remote working is also more common in jobs with higher levels of computer use, higher earnings and that require higher levels of education, the research says.
  • But there are variations within sectors, with different companies taking different approaches to remote working.

Remote work isn’t just a trend, it’s a trend that has spawned other new trends. One of the most interesting can be found on TikTok, where homeworkers have taken to “body doubling”, in which they watch live videos of other remote workers sitting at their desks and … well, remote working.

“Whenever I’m needing to focus a little bit harder, I’ll find myself looking over at the screen and seeing the person there,” one person who has body-doubled with a friend on Zoom told The Washington Post. “My brain can mimic what they’re doing as opposed to finding something else around me to be distracted by.”

A new paper from the US National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) doesn’t examine the rise of body doubling, but it does look at other remote working trends that have become embedded in the years since COVID-19 emerged. It takes more than 250 million job vacancy postings across five English-speaking countries and analyses them to find out which locations and sectors are showing the fastest growth in remote jobs.

The researchers behind the paper – called Remote Work across Jobs, Companies, and Space – used a state-of-the-art language-processing framework to detect job postings offering hybrid or fully remote work. They found that the share of postings allowing people to work remotely for a minimum of one day per week rose at least fivefold in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK between 2019 and early 2023 – outpacing the threefold rise seen in the US.

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But there are huge variations across cities, industries and occupations, the researchers say. “Even when zooming in on employers in the same industry competing for talent in the same occupations, we find large differences in the share of job postings that explicitly offer remote work.”

Here are four charts that highlight some of these variations.

In which country is remote working rising fastest?

The UK is outpacing the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand when it comes to jobs offering remote working, as the chart below shows.

A graph showing vacancy postings that explicitly offer hybrid or fully remote work rose sharply.
Levels of remote working by country appear to be linked to the severity of initial COVID-19 outbreaks. Image: NBER

The reason appears to be linked to how severe each country’s initial COVID-19 outbreak was, the report says, with those most affected showing the biggest uptick.

During the onset of COVID-19 in March-April 2020, there was an average increase of 200% in jobs offering remote work across the five surveyed countries, the report says.

Which sectors are offering remote jobs more often?

Remote working is more common in jobs with higher levels of computer use, higher earnings and that require higher levels of education, the NBER paper says. It is lower in occupations that require “specialized equipment or customer interactions”.

A bar chart showing professional, scientific and computer related occupations have the highest shares of postings that offer hybrid or fully remote work.
Jobs with higher levels of computer use and educational requirements are more likely to offer remote work. Image: NBER

The report analysed data from the US only for the chart above, which shows a more than fivefold rise in the amount of computer, mathematical, architecture and engineering jobs offering remote working opportunities. These areas have seen the biggest rises, while healthcare and education have some of the lowest increases in hybrid working.

This tallies with findings in the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report. “The industries with the largest opportunity to work from home are the information technology and insurance industries, with 74% of workers in those industries reporting having access to remote working,” it says.

Remote work opportunities vary by company as well as by sector

However, there are more factors than just sector at play when it comes to the chances of certain workers being able to work remotely.

The NBER report drills down into data for vacancies at aerospace, insurance and vehicle manufacturing firms to see whether hybrid work opportunities are stable across each company. Its findings show that they vary dramatically.

A graphic showing the prevalence of postings that allow hybrid or fully-remote work varies.
Different companies in the same sectors are taking very different approaches to remote work. Image: NEBR

Some companies, such as Honda, have made explicit moves to make remote working a long-term part of their set-ups. “Remote work is a critical recruiting and retention tool for the talent Honda needs to achieve its vision of a carbon-free … future and expanding life's potential for people everywhere”, the Japanese vehicle maker says.

Remote working varies by city

There are also notable variations in remote working variations by city, according to the NBER research.

“In 2022, one in four new job postings in Washington, DC advertised remote work arrangements, compared to one in fourteen in Perth, Australia,” it says.

A bar chart showing the shares of vacancy postings that explicitly offer hybrid or fully remote work varies across major cities.
The most populated cities are seeing some of the biggest rises in remote working opportunities. Image: NEBR

London, Sydney and Toronto – the most populous cities in the UK, Australia and Canada, respectively – have seen some of the biggest increases in jobs offering remote working.

Fortune says that people in America’s largest cities by population – such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago – work from home in consistently larger numbers than those in smaller towns. It says this is down to the fact that cities tend to have higher numbers of knowledge workers, which – as mentioned earlier – are the kind of jobs more likely to be possible from home.

At the same time, this trend is actually supporting small cities and towns, as some people are not just becoming remote workers but are also relocating to more remote areas to be closer to nature and to benefit from more affordable housing.

Being able to mix urban career opportunities with a more rural lifestyle suits people like Gonzalo Fuenzalida in Chile perfectly. “For a family like ours that is really connected with nature, this is exactly the life we wanted,” he told the BBC.

He says that he and his wife now spend their free time cycling, hiking and stand-up paddleboarding … but he didn’t mention whether they’ve ever tried body doubling on TikTok.

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