Remote working is opportunity for disadvantaged areas- study

But ESPON research highlights risks of increased inequality too

(By Alessandra Briganti) (ANSA) - BRUSSELS, SEP 20 - Remote working is here to stay and it will bring with it new development opportunities for disadvantaged areas, but also the risk of greater socio-economic and regional inequality, according to a new study.
    So the job of cohesion policy in the post-pandemic period will be to address the challenges linked to accelerating the process of digitalization, said a working paper on migratory flows and the knowledge economy conducted by the ESPON research programme, which specializes in EU regional studies.
    The pandemic had a negative impact on consumption and production levels and models all over the world.
    European cities and regions have had to address the shock of the health crisis and its consequences precisely when digitalization, the growth of the knowledge economy, demographic changes and globalization were causing changes to the labour market.
    On the other hand, the pandemic will have long-term implications for innovation, accelerating the digital transition and reinforcing the provision of digital services.
    According to the researchers, these changes will continue to shape the way people live and work because remote working offers greater flexibility and autonomy, a better balance between work and private life and less time spent commuting.
    This could be an advantage for peripheral areas, leading to a better balanced distribution of employment and of the population.
    There is evidence to suggest this is the case.
    The researchers wrote that a significant movement of residents from densely populated counties to less populated ones has been registered in the United States.
    In addition to boosting the appeal of non-urban life, remote working could also stimulate demand for better telecommunications infrastructure and co-working spaces.
    Businesses, especially auxiliary ones, may decide to leave big cities and migrate to residential areas.
    In short, it is an opportunity that requires policies designed to boost the attractiveness of less developed areas.
    For example, the central role of digital infrastructure in making it possible to work and study from home was shown during the pandemic.
    And yet 41% of homes in rural areas are not covered by broad band and this could be the reason why remote working tends to be more concentrated in cities, according to the researchers.
    The researchers concluded that, in order to combat the emergence of new forms of social and labour inequality, European and national political strategies must address the social implications of widespread use of remote working, and seek to improve the opportunities offered by these forms of labour while increasing the social inclusion of groups of people and areas that are currently marginalized. (ANSA).


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