By Dec. 2021, Canada saw twice as many public sector employees working from home than the United States did, according to a new Statistics Canada report. 

The Aug. 24 report by analysts Sean Clarke and Vincent Hardy titled Working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic: How rates in Canada and the United States compare found that US civil servants returned to their workplace much faster than their Canadian counterparts. 

“Generally, industries with the highest rates of work from home tend to be professional services, such as educational services; professional and technical services; financial activities; information, culture and recreation; and public administration,” wrote Clarke and Hardy.

In Dec. 2021, 50.4% of Canada’s public administration sector was working from home, while in the US only 20.7% of their civil servants were doing the same. At the time, both countries were coming out of an Omicron wave. 

“We know what to do, we know how to wear masks, we know how to keep our distances, we know how to reduce our contact numbers, and if we do that well, over the next couple of weeks we’re going to see a better winter, and especially a better spring than otherwise,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time. 

Remote working rates between the two neighbouring countries were much more aligned the year prior. According to Statistics Canada, in May 2020, 59.6% of Canadian public administrators were working from home while in the US, 45.5% were doing the same. 

“Throughout the course of the pandemic, the percentage of those working from home declined across all industries. The decreases were generally faster in the United States than in Canada, and there was significant variation from industry to industry,” wrote Clarke and Hardy. 

Analysts found that Canada’s strict Covid-19 restrictions could account for why Canadian workers refused to return to their workplaces while American ones did not. 

“Measures began to become more stringent again in the fall of 2020 at more or less the same rate between the two countries,” wrote Clarke and Hardy. 

“However, into and throughout 2021, Canada’s stringency level was significantly higher than that in the United States, suggesting that COVID-19 measures in the United States tended to be less restrictive than those in Canada during this period.”

Critics have accused the Liberals of being beholden to unnecessary Covid-19 restrictions such as the remaining ArriveCAN app as the rest of the world moves beyond the pandemic. 

Another Statistics Canada report recently revealed that restrictions had “more of an impact” on Canada’s air industry than other factors. 

Canadian public servants have also been reluctant to return to work. Unions representing government employees are pushing back against federal calls to return to the workplace.

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Journalist and Senior Research Fellow

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