The Welsh economy is experiencing a profound and unprecedented shock due to the Coronavirus pandemic. One of the consequences of lockdowns and public health restrictions has been requiring people, where they can, to work from home. UK data suggests that while just 5 per cent of workers worked from home prior to March 2020, this increased to approximately 43 per cent at the beginning of lockdown (Felstead and Reuschke, 2020).
While this percentage is unlikely to be sustained once the Coronavirus pandemic is more manageable in the medium- to long-term, it is reasonable to expect that more people will work remotely more of the time than they did prior to March 2020. This may be from home, or from a designated workspace in a community, and may be full time or a blend of remote and office working. However, across the whole of the Welsh economy, the opportunities for working remotely may be limited. Wales has a greater proportion of workers on low pay and people who are unable to work from home than other parts of the UK (Rodrigues & Ifan, 2020; Resolution Foundation, 2020). The Welsh Government has recently announced a ‘long-term ambition to see around 30% of Welsh workers working from home or near from home, including after the threat of Covid-19 lessens’ (Welsh Government, 2020).
The Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales and the Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport have asked the Wales Centre for Public Policy to synthesise the evidence on the likely implications of remote working for the Welsh economy. Key issues include the implications for:
The report draws together the evidence available so far from Wales, the rest of the UK and internationally – with a particular focus on small and similar nations – to understand how remote working may impact various aspects of economic activity in the future.