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Greater Dublin best placed to deal with post-Covid crisis due to remote working options, UCC study finds

The study warns there are regional implications due to dependency on sectors less able to work remotely and socially distance.

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THE GREATER DUBLIN area and provincial cities will be least impacted by the economic crisis due to greater potential for remote working, according to new research from University College Cork. 

The study, undertaken by Dr Frank Crowley and Dr Justin Doran, examined occupational data and economic indices to gain a better picture of how Ireland’s workforce will be affected by social distancing measures and ability to work remotely, and how this could affect regional economies. 

It found that people living in Dublin and provincial cities will be better placed to work remotely due to the large number of people employed in sectors like research and science where it is possible to do so. 

At a town level, the study notes, “more affluent, larger, more densely populated, better educated and better broadband provisioned towns have more occupations with greater potential to adhere to social distancing measures and greater potential for remote working.”

Dr Crowley and Dr Doran examined both occupations that had the most potential for remote working and occupations that can better adapt to social distancing measures. 

According to the study, only 14% of the Irish workforce worked remotely before Covid-19 with the highest proportion of employees doing so in the education, ICT and finance sectors.

Sectors like health, administration, construction, retail, transport and accommodation and food had less than one in 10 employees working from home, it said. 

Using occupational data from US data centre Occupational Information Net, Dr Crowley and Dr Doran then applied it to the 318 different job categories in Ireland, as defined by the Central Statistics Office. 

Examining the Government’s Pandemic Unemployment Payment statistics, the study identified accommodation and food, retail, motor vehicle repair and construction as being among the most affected sectors in Ireland. 

Because some people are more dependent on sectors with lower potential for remote working and social distancing, the study notes, there are regional implications which could result in regional inequalities into the future. 

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The study warns that a “one size fits all policy approach to the crisis is unlikely to resolve regional inequalities.”

“For example, given the dependence of some peripheral areas and smaller urban areas on the tourism and hospitality industry, the economic contagion effect at the local level may have devastating consequences for these communities,” they wrote. 

“The Irish government needs to consider carefully how local and regional policy settings could be redesigned in order to better accommodate the impacts of increased social distancing and remote working on society over the short term and how it could help deeply affected workings and businesses recover in the medium to longer term.”

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