20 April, 2024
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COVID lifted remote work barrier for mums, carers

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The remote working revolution has significantly lifted long-time barriers for workers with disabilities and mothers with young children, new research suggests.

The two groups have been recruited in greater numbers than other workers in occupations that underwent large transitions to remote work since 2020, the report by an economic think-tank said on Thursday.

Carers and people with impactful health conditions have also greatly benefited from the changes induced by the pandemic and a strong labour market.

The analysis also shows the groups, which typically had higher work-for-home (WFH) rates, are now virtually level with the rest of the workforce in those select occupations.

Across all industries, 37 per cent of workers regularly work from home – up from five per cent of all workers in 2016.

“WFH has levelled the playing field,” the Committee of Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) report said.

But that did not mean it would remain.

“Embedding these gains even when the jobs market inevitably softens should be a priority,” CEDA Chief Economist Cassandra Winzar said.

“Implementing changes that make both remote and in-office work more effective – such as clarifying performance expectations, formalising mentoring and developing communication and management skills – is a good place to start.”

The report also forecast inflation would remain elevated throughout 2024 and economic growth would remain slow.

Unemployment will also likely rise, particularly as higher interest rates weaken demand.

Progress on the national agreement to build one million new homes by mid-2029 was criticised as too slow amid continued housing shortages, struggles in the construction sector and “a dearth of progress” on planning and zoning reforms.

CEDA called for creative short-term solutions, such as encouraging people to share bedrooms or rent out spare bedrooms.

Governments could also look at incentivising downsizing, the report says.

Methods to reduce barriers to downsizing, such as stamp duty, were not floated.

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