Has ‘WFH’ increased immigration numbers?

PreCovid19, the words ‘digital nomad’ painted pictures of freelancers and location free entrepreneurs on the beaches of Bali or sipping cold Cervejas in Lisbon. Their rise coincided with the proliferation of technology that enabled employees to enjoy location freedom.

Back in 2019, an article on Worldpackers shared that the term ‘digital nomad’ will define 1 billion of people by 2035 as ‘more and more people will become discontent with the world of 9-5 office work’. Yet as Covid19 struck, the 9-5 office became speedily redundant as millions worked from home to combat the spread of the virus. According to Tech Monitor, the pandemic triggered a 50% rise in digital nomads across the US in 2020. In Europe, 5.4% of the workforce were working remotely before the pandemic. However, this statistic rose to 40% due to lockdowns. In Canada, just 13% of the workforce were working remotely in 2018. This grew to nearly 40% in March in 2020 (Levels.io).

As people settled into their new work from home routines, many have contemplated the benefits of remote work such as less hours spent commuting and more time spent for hobbies and relaxation. This in turn gives people a greater sense of balance which can improve productivity. As a consequence, organisations are restructuring to accommodate a more flexible workplace and waving goodbye to office rent. With the downsizing of office spaces and increased workforce working from home, what does this mean for the future of digital nomads?

With more people working from home, there has been speculation that there will be a rise of digital nomad visas (DigiDay). Until now, antiquated visa systems requested that travellers confirm their status as entrepreneurs or workers that had a company sponsoring their stay. This of course was often expensive and involved a tiresome bureaucratic process. 

Yet, in the last year as a direct consequence of Covid19, several countries, including Dubai, Barbados and Georgia have begun to offer mid to long term residency visas to encourage professionals to work remotely (Remoters). Thus, with more countries offering attractive working conditions, the rise of digital nomadism as a result of the pandemic will cause a broader redistribution of work globally. Furthermore, Economist Carl Benedikt Frey shared with Tech Monitor that ‘remote jobs can also be done offshore’, thus we are living in a transitional period before a new wave of companies offshoring to embrace new technologies.

In addition to this, Levels.io published an essay detailing that the next decade will see the greatest human migration in history. Millions of people will be relocating semi-permanently to destinations that resonate with their lifestyles.

In the last year, people have acclimated to working from home and now the world is taking steps to normalise travel once again. In this future, there is great potential for the increase of remote work to correlate with digital nomadism and increased immigration. 

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