South India least prone to disruption due to lockdown, says ISB study


Hyderabad: Even as the government-imposed lockdown is put in place to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, a new study has found that South India will least disruption compared to the potentially higher disruption likely to be witnessed across North India. The study was conducted to understand the situation and the new research found out how this lockdown affects occupations, industries and the different districts of India.

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

The study 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 WFI to each occupation. A Human Proximity Index (PI) was 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, the 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, the study stated in the release.

While classifying sectors, computer programming along with some others was 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,” said Professor 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), in the release.

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.

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 Prof. Mani, discussing the implications of this study.

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