Home working

I’ve been off-blog for a while attending to family business, of which the central feature was scattering my mother’s ashes in her native Kincardineshire.   She was 98 when she died last year and ready to go, so there was no sadness.  We (me and my family, my brother and his family) used the opportunity to hook up with some cousins and second cousins whom we had either never met, or not seen much of.  My grandmother had 12 siblings, and my mother as a result had 64 cousins, so the family tree is a bit complex.  We filled in some gaps, but principally we just enjoyed exchanging family stories.

One set of second cousins, Val and Wilson, are homeworkers, and boy, how both parts of that word apply.   Val and Wilson grew up in adjoining farms, though they didn’t meet until their late teens.  They have recently moved out of the main farmhouse to make room for their son and his family, and their parents did, taking up residence in a smaller house just over the hill.  Their side of the family have worked their farm for five generations, so the ‘home’ has deep roots.

As for the work:  the farm has cows,sheep and cereals.  It’s not a dairy farm with the constraints that brings, but they give themselves just a couple of days off twice a year.  At lambing time they are up at 4am and getting to bed late at night.   Quality of life pretty high;  free time definitely low.

Val and Wilson are homeworkers par excellence.  There’s been a fair amount in the press recently on homeworkers generally, including some average pay figures which show them to be quite well paid.    But as so often, overall labels hide some quite important disparities.  ‘Homeworking’ covers two types:  those who use their home as a base for their work but actually do the work elsewhere;  and those who actually work at home or around it.  So the former  would include plumbers and management consultants;  the latter dressmakers and  farmers.

I don’t have a split on how female and male homeworkers are rewarded.  But I do have the breakdown on whether they work at home or not (see below).  You’ll see that overall men outnumber  women by about 2 to 1.  But that’s because many of them use the home as their base,  When it comes to actual home-based working, women outnumber men.  My guess is that there is a fairly strong division between the two categories in the rewards they get for their work, and the reasons why they work from home.    As so often, a single label can cover very different experiences.


All home workers HW_home and grounds1 HW_home as a base2 Not home worker All employed
Male 64.4 46.9 74.2 51.7 53.5
Female 35.6 53.1 25.8 48.3 46.5
Source: ONS Labour Force Survey
1. HW_home and grounds includes all those home workers who report they work from their own home or within the grounds of their home.
2. HW_home as a base includes all those home workers who report they meet clients and customers elsewhere but use their home as a base.

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