In the United States and other developed countries, the pandemic has driven a large proportion of the workforce to work from home, and in the aftermath of the crisis, the number of people who permanently work remotely is likely to triple or quadruple. But in countries such as China and India, a much smaller percentage of the population will be able to work remotely.
That’s according to a new report from McKinsey, which analyzed how workers in nine countries were faring through the pandemic.
In emerging economies such as India, Mexico, and China, only between 12% and 21% can do their work remotely without losing any productivity. This is because employment in these economies tends to be skewed toward jobs that require manual work, such as agriculture and manufacturing.
However, for the U.S. and many European countries, that jumps to between 28% and 30% of workers.
The research finds that highly educated, highly skilled workers tend to be able to work remotely with the same productivity as in an office. (There are exceptions—doctors, for instance—who might need to see patients in person or use machines at the hospital.) Ultimately, McKinsey found that the ability to work from home depends on a worker’s tasks and reliance on fixed equipment.
When it comes to how we work—much like other aspects of life—the pandemic has exposed inequities. Some employees in the developing world would prefer to work in offices, even if they had the option to work remotely, simply because their homes are not outfitted with the tools they need to get work done. In India, for instance, many employees don’t have air-conditioning or good Wi-Fi at home, so they would much rather not work remotely after the pandemic.