COVID-19: Working from home – New Briefing Note

Computer tracking - Image by Guilhem Vellut
Computer tracking - Image by Guilhem Vellut

On the 11th of March, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a pandemic. Shortly after the Federal and Provincial governments across the country urged Canadians to take up social distancing to slow the spread of the virus. Students, employers and other leaders were encouraged to study and work from home. What do these measures mean for people living in different situations?

“For Canadians who can work from home and have strong broadband or fibre optic internet connections at home, one of the biggest challenges is abstaining from snacks,” said author Sean Rosairo, data analyst at Northern Policy Institute. “For other Canadians, especially for those in rural and northern communities, the internet infrastructure can be lacking and working from home can become frustrating or impossible depending on two factors: access to the internet, and types of work that can be done remotely.”

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) states a target bandwidth of 50 Mbps (megabits per second) download speeds and 10 Mbps upload speeds to participate smoothly in digital activities.

The data in this briefing note shows that in Northern Ontario, there is a significant lack of access to the 50/10 Mbps target speed. In fact, 15.5 percent of the population, or 120,932 people, still have bandwidth speeds below the target speed.

As for the occupations that cannot be done remotely, the author finds that the top three occupations for Northern Ontario are also listed on the Ontario government’s essential businesses list: service support and other service occupations; maintenance and equipment operation trades; and industrial, electrical, and construction trades. These occupations make up 17 per cent of the total employed labour force.

The call to work from home has exposed the vulnerabilities of our economy, infrastructure and certain occupations. Social distancing may be the stress test needed to help continue highlighting the need to improve digital infrastructure in Northern Ontario.

To read more about Long Distance Social Distancing: Working from Home during COVID-19, go read the briefing note here:

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Northern Policy Institute is Northern Ontario’s independent think tank. We perform research, collect and disseminate evidence, and identify policy opportunities to support the growth of sustainable Northern communities. Our operations are located in Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, and Sudbury. We seek to enhance Northern Ontario’s capacity to take the lead position on socio-economic policy that impacts Northern Ontario, Ontario, and Canada as a whole.