As more and more people were moving to cities in the second half of the nineteenth century, the "country cottage industry" was replaced by "sweatshops" in city tenements and slum dwellings. Attempts to repress this form of labour began around the turn of the century, pressed by concern over child labour, health and safety standard and minimum wages. By 1943 the USA [Fair Labour Standards Act] was passed prohibiting home manufacturing in seven industries: jewellery, gloves and mittens, knitted outerwear, buttons and buckles, women's apparel, handkerchiefs and embroideries. Current municipal zoning regulations regulating home occupations tend to be exceptionally restrictive.
Information occupations amenable to home-based work include: (a) information producers ([eg] engineers, surveyors, buyers, accountants and lawyers); (b) information distributors ([eg] lecturers, archivists, journalists); (c) information processors ([eg] clerical officers, production managers) and (d) those working with information infrastructure ([eg] mail carriers, phone operators). In addition to this rapidly growing sector of work, there are the more traditional home-based trade and craft enterprises, childcare, and clerical, sales and professional workers.
[Industrialized countries] In the USA in 1983, 10 million Americans listed their home address as their place of business. A 1986 USA Bureau of Labor Statistics survey estimated 8.4 million (non-farm) persons worked at home at least 8 hours a week. A 1987 survey estimated that approximately 13.3 million people work at home at least part time. In 1999, the estimates for homeworking were nearly 25 percent of the workforce. These professional homeworkers were twice as likely than office workers to own a computer; and over 600,000 households used a modem and 240,000 households relied substantially on computer communication for income producing work. A large number of companies have work-at-home programmes for teleworkers, the number of whom were estimated in excess of 100,000 in 1985.
The World Future Studies Society predicts that one-quarter of the white collar workforce, or 34% of the industrialized workforce, will be working out of their homes by the year 2000.
In 1999, over 450,000 people, or 4 percent of the workforce, in Australia were working from their homes. This figure is growing at between 15 percent and 17 percent annually. it is predicted that one in four people will be working from home by 2010.
[Developing countries] The distinction between production (economic activities) and reproduction (domestic activities) is not clearly drawn in developing country households. Many households would not have their dwelling without the enterprise and many enterprises would not exist without the use of the dwelling.
Professional homework remains prevalent today for industrial/production work in third world countries, especially for women. From study based in Lima, Peru, it has been estimated that between a tenth and a quarter of all dwellings in the cities of developing countries have an enterprise on the premises, a home-based enterprise (HBE). Another study in Delhi found that HBEs were responsible for 56% of total household income; also that at the lowest rung of the investment ladder, the rate of return is as high as 20 to 50 times the investment made. On the other hand the disadvantages of HBEs tend to be a result of the more general malaise in housing and employment conditions rather than a result of working in the home per se. These include the exploitation of workers and the effect of economic activities on the residential environment, often referred to as externalities.
According to a 1999 report, fewer than one European in employment out of 10 opted for working from home, although one in four worked from home occassionally (but this included work done on a voluntary basis). Among those who worked away from the office, one in three would have liked to work from home, either full-time or on a part-time basis. The majority, however, would have liked to work from home only some of the time. More than 40% of women who returned to work after an interval preferred to work from home.
2. Electronic offices for working from home are potentially the greatest energy-saving feature of any energy efficient house.
3. In many cities and towns, or zones thereof, it is still illegal to operate a home-based business.