2.6. Well-being and the digital transformation

The OECD Framework for Measuring Well-being and Progress (http://www.oecd.org/statistics/measuring-well-being-and-progress.htm) is intended to challenge how policy makers and society as a whole think about progress. It recognises 11 dimensions of well-being that are key for a better life. Impacts of the digital transformation on these dimensions are ambiguous; both risks and opportunities exist in areas such as work-life balance, social connections, and governance and civic engagement.

Increasingly, computer-based jobs, combined with improved connectivity, allow workers to be more mobile. In many jobs, it is no longer necessary to be physically in the workplace all of the time. Instead, “teleworking”, can allow workers to manage their time more flexibly and make it easier to fulfil non-work responsibilities. Teleworking has the potential to contribute job satisfaction and work-life balance, as well as to improving the gender balance in many households (Billari et al., 2017). However, such connectivity may be associated with employer expectations of constant-connectedness and increased working outside regular hours. It should also be noted that access to and use of teleworking facilities is skewed toward high-skill workers and that the burden of combining work and family life thanks to teleworking may often fall on women more than on men (Dettling, 2016).

Work is strongly linked to people’s self regard and well-being. The Internet can be useful in finding work opportunities. On average, 21% of Internet users in the OECD reported looking for a job or sending a job application online in 2017 and 33% of those aged 16-24 did so. Online job search is especially common in Chile, Finland and Mexico, at around 30-40% of Internet users. Strikingly, in Finland over 60% of 16-24 year old Internet users looked online for jobs in 2017 – a time when the youth unemployment rate was relatively high at 20%. By contrast, in other OECD countries with even higher youth employment at the time, such as France and Spain, young people have not turned as strongly to the Internet as a potential solution. Indeed the second-highest rate of online job-search among Internet users aged 16-24 was seen in Iceland, where youth unemployment was among the lowest in the OECD in 2017, at 7.7%.

The Internet also provides people with a new arena for engaging in civic and political debates. This aspect of the digital transformation is sometimes seen as a risk, because online political participation is thought to exacerbate ideological divides. However, recent studies have found only limited evidence that political polarisation can be attributed to the use of online media. (Dubois and Blank, 2018). Political expression online is not inherently bad, if it comes from a place of conviction and is not corrupted by false information or targeted manipulation. At the core, it provides people with a new avenue for exchanging ideas and can give an opportunity to voice frustration and derive meaning.

Did You Know?

A quarter of people who use digital equipment at work teleworked from home at least weekly in the EU28 in 2018.


Teleworking is broadly defined as ICT-facilitated mobile work that takes places either at home or at another location outside the normal workplace.

Political engagement online relates to individuals using the Internet for posting opinions on civic or political issues via websites such as blogs or social networks.


These data are gathered through direct surveys of households’ ICT usage which ask if the respondent has undertaken a specific activity during the recall period. The OECD Model Survey on ICT Access and usage by Households and Individuals (OECD, 2015) proposes a wide range of activities for investigation including, telework, job search, online political engagement and many more. A recall period of 3 months (meaning the respondent should have undertaken the online activities in the 3 months prior to the survey) is recommended though some countries use different recall periods.

Ideally, measures of the impact of the digital transformation on well-being would reflect not only people’s use of digital technologies, but also whether this use makes them more or less satisfied with their lives. For the moment, data limitations stand in the way of conducting such analyses. The wider challenges of measuring the impact of digital technologies on well-being are discussed in more detail on page 2.10 and in OECD (2019).

When measuring use of the Internet for activities such as job-search or political engagement, gauging the frequency and intensity of use can provide important additional information. Specific research designs can help shed light on the positive and negative effects of social media use on people’s social connections and mental health. In particular, longitudinal studies can provide insights into the causal effects of social media use on various dimensions of well-being.

Individuals teleworking from home in the last 12 months, 2018
Percentage of individuals who, at work, use any type of computers, portable devices, or computerised equipment or machinery

Source: OECD, based on Eurostat, Digital Economy and Society Statistics, January 2019. StatLink contains more data.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933929319

Internet users looking for a job or sending a job application online, by age, 2017
As a percentage of Internet users in each age group

Source: OECD, ICT Access and Usage by Households and Individuals Database, http://oe.cd/hhind, December 2018. See 1. StatLink contains more data.

1. Unless otherwise stated, Internet users are defined as individuals who accessed the Internet within the last 3 months. For Korea, the recall period is 12 months. For the United States, the recall period is 6 months.

For Brazil, data refer to 2016.

For Costa Rica, data refer to individuals aged 18-74 instead of 16-74.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933929338

Individuals who used the Internet for posting opinions on civic or political issues via websites, by age, 2017
As a percentage of individuals in each age group

Source: OECD calculations based on Eurostat, Eurostat Digital Economy and Society Statistics, December 2018.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933929357

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