Moving for work? No thanks. Foreign talent increasingly chooses remote work over relocating amid COVID-19

Requires some thinking regarding implications for immigration policy with respect to those highly skilled who can largely work remotely. Virtual immigration should not be conflated with immigration and integration. Remote workers are highly unlikely to use Canadian government services or pay Canadian taxes:

With more opportunities emerging to work remotely in these uncertain times, fewer people appear willing to move abroad for work, according to a global survey that also found Canada is overtaking the U.S. as the world’s top destination for foreign workers.

Overall, only 50.4 per cent of the 209,000 respondents from 190 countries said they would move to another country to work, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a key reason, according to the survey by Boston Consulting Group and The Network.

The report on global workforce trends shows a gradual decline in people’s interest in working abroad, from 57 per cent in 2018 and 64 per cent in 2014, when the surveys were previously conducted.

“These findings reflect several new factors that have penetrated the world’s consciousness and changed the workplace. The factors — the fallout from a difficult-to-control pandemic and a sharp rise in nationalism — have altered people’s thinking,” said the report released this month.

“Businesses and governments must understand these new attitudes and make adjustments of their own in order to ensure they’ll have the future workforce they need.”

Almost a quarter of respondents picked Canada as their first choice to relocate, four percentage point ahead of the United States, which, along with Australia, ranked second.

Canada is the No. 1 destination for many of the types of people that “countries prize,” including those with master’s or PhD degrees, those with digital training or expertise, and those younger than 30, said the report.

Almost all of the countries that moved up in the Top 10 rankings have a relatively low incidence of COVID-19 cases. That includes Canada (up two spots from last survey); Australia (up one place); and Japan (up to No. 6 from 10th place).

Two Asia-Pacific countries that were recognized for their public health response — Singapore and New Zealand — also appear on the Top 10 list for the first time. Many previously popular destinations, such as Germany and France, saw their ranking suffered.

“The travel restrictions that have come and gone during the pandemic have clearly had an impact on people’s attitudes,” said the report. “Relocation willingness has also been affected by the trend toward remote work.”

No physical presence needed

Fifty-seven per cent of respondents said they were willing to work remotely for a foreign employer that doesn’t have a physical presence in their home country. About one-quarter said they aren’t sure but would consider it. Few rejected the idea outright.

The overall openness to virtual work is especially high among people in the information technology and digital fields, with 71 per cent of people with digital or analytics backgrounds saying they would be willing to work for a company with no physical presence in their own country. Among those with postgraduate degrees, 62 per cent would say yes.

“Hiring people from other countries is not a new practice for employers,” said report co-author Pierre Antebi, a co-managing director of The Network, which is a global leader in online recruitment, serving more than 2,000 international corporations.

“But the trend of remote working makes it possible to do it on a broader scale and expand the available talent pool. There’s also an upside for workers, who can advance their careers without uprooting their lives.”

As a destination for international remote employment, the U.S. ranked first and was the choice of 25 per cent of respondents, followed by Canada and Australia, both getting 22 per cent of the votes.

A global and remote talent pool

That virtual mobility allows multinational companies to tap into talent without having to pay to relocate people or set up offices in foreign countries, said the report.

“An embrace of virtual mobility could mean a reversal of some of the skills shortages that countries face,” it noted.

However, the report pointed out, companies and governments must first navigate complex taxes, labour laws and work regulations. There are also other logistical challenges, such as cultural integration of remote employees and time-zone problems that need to be considered.

Seventeen governments in Europe and the Caribbean have already introduced visas that simplify the recruitment of foreign digital workers. Some of the countries offer tax exemptions to the foreign employees they need the most.

“If you’re a company or government that hasn’t previously considered international remote employment as a way to address your skills shortages, it may sound like a very complicated thing to do,” said the report. “In fact, you’re probably more ready than you think.”

Source: Moving for work? No thanks. Foreign talent increasingly chooses remote work over relocating amid COVID-19

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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