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Covid19 lockdown: South India facing least disruption to work, says ISB study

G Naga Sridhar Hyderabad | Updated on April 08, 2020

Representative image   -  istock.com/askmenow

States entire peninsular South India found to have high work-from-home potential

South India is facing least disruption of work due to national lockdown presently in force to fight coronavirus (Covid19) threat, according to the findings of a study conducted by the Indian School of Business (ISB).

With the Government-imposed lockdown in place, to tackle with the Covid-19 pandemic, most professionals are relegated to work-from-home. To study and understand the situation, ISB has initiated new research to find out how this lockdown affects occupations, industries and the different districts of India.

“Surprisingly, not just urban centres like Hyderabad, Delhi or Bangalore fell high on the WFI, but the entire peninsular south India, was found to have a high work from home potential,” Shekhar Tomar, faculty in the Economics and Public Policy area at ISB and co-researcher of the study said in a release on Wednesday,

The research used a 2019 survey of 3,000 workers to measure the impact of the lockdown on over 100 occupations as defined in the National Classification of Occupations (NCO) of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, and assigned a Work from Home Index (WFI) to each occupation.

A ‘Human Proximity Index’ (PI) is also assigned to each one of these occupations. With these two indices lined-up perpendicular to each other, the occupations were classified into four quadrants -- low work from home and high human proximity, low work from home and low human proximity, high work from home and high human proximity and high work from home and low human proximity.

For the WFI, a survey comprising of six questions was developed by the researchers to assess if physical proximity, on-site presence or working with teams were vital to do the job. The researchers found that the two indices had a significant negative correlation with each other. The results were reasonably intuitive, like in the cases of drivers, housemaids, nurses, etc. displayed low work from home potential.

While classifying sectors, computer programming along with some others were found to have high work from home potential. In contrast, those like agriculture, wholesale or retail trade and collaborative manufacturing had a lower potential for work from home. A few sectors, like textiles and occupations like restaurant services, were found to have little human proximity and low potential for work from home by the study.

Some unintuitive findings also came from the study. Most jobs which have a high work from home potential and high human proximity, for example, middle school teaching associates, were found to be highly susceptible to automation, owing to their high work from home potential.

“Though we see very few occupations in this quadrant, this might well be the time when a lot of occupations move to this quadrant of high work from home potential and high human proximity,” Deepa Mani, co-researcher of this study and Executive Director of the ISB research centre Srini Raju Centre for IT and the Networked Economy (SRITNE) said in on Wednesday.

The two indices (WFI and PI) were mapped, district-wise and industry-wise, to determine the impact of the current lockdown. In this district-level measure, researchers find that cities had a higher potential for work from home, with many services based from here. Also, some urban districts were found more amenable to work from home.

Variations within a district

Using the two indices, a third measure – to determine the economic impact of this WFH disruption – is arrived at by the researchers. To do this, a ratio of the WFI and PI are used. A significant spatial variation was noted when mapping the Disruption Index (DI) to the districts of India. The result indicated that South India (higher on WFI and low on PI) should face more moderate disruption compared to the potentially higher disruption likely to be witnessed across north India.

This study also found interesting variations within a district. In the case of Delhi, northeast Delhi was found to be facing much higher disruption compared to south Delhi.

The researchers said that sectors which are more prone to working from home maybe could be provided with a policy nudge, like tax breaks, by the government using the disruption index. Based on this study, organisations might need to design effective policies, practices and initiatives that assist or complement WFH. “The second less obvious implication was the need to assess the susceptibility of occupations to digitisation,” said Mani, discussing the implications of this study.

The study is still assessing the impact on workers across various dimensions like psychological impact, productivity and well being. To evaluate this, the ISB faculty has designed a survey and has invited participation from more professionals across India.

Published on April 08, 2020

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