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Telemigration: the new phenomenon of post-Covid relocation

15 October 2021

“This week, I telework.” While the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the daily lives of all of us, it has significantly changed the lives of the majority of employees. Companies that allow their staff to work from home are increasingly attracted to this new organisation, finding that it even has a positive impact on the productivity of their employees. But what happens when these same companies understand that, no matter how many kilometres are needed, what is done remotely can be done on the other side of the world? The arrival of telemigration, accelerated by the increasing use of teleworking, is already disrupting the economy and the international labour market. Deciphering this revolution, which fascinates analysts around the world as much as it worries.

How is telemigration defined?

The term was created in 2019 by Richard Baldwin, professor of international economics in Geneva, in his essay “The Globotics Upheaval: Globalisation, Robotics and the Future of Work”.  The economist recounts the impact of globalization and technological advances on employees and workers.  Referring to globalization 4.0, he defines telemigration as people belonging to one nation, and working in the offices of another. It is no surprise that this new era that we are going through today has largely been accelerated by the health crisis and the expansion of teleworking, coupled with videoconferencing tools and increasingly powerful machine translation.

How is telemigration disrupting the global labour market?  

Is remote migration so advantageous for companies? The financial and fiscal incentives are not negligible, to the point that one might wonder why this new form of relocation did not spread earlier in our countries. Indeed, since it is no longer necessary to force its employees to go to the office, why not relocate these positions abroad and thus make substantial savings (premises, canteen, etc.)?  By transferring a position in a country to labour ten to twenty, or sometimes even thirty times less expensive, the company already saves in labour costs and productivity. If we consider that on  average nearly  37% of jobs are tele workable in Europe, this is a game changer.

Remote work is now acquired within most companies and it has even become an HR argument for some. Employers are less suspicious, and recruiting abroad is becoming almost a trivialized practice. The relocation of jobs is scary but it is no longer as taboo as it used to be, and so much the better if it is virtual!

The tele migrant, this new player in the labour market

Another point that challenges economists is the profile of tele migrants. They are engineers, accountants, programmers and architects, i.e.  highly qualified profiles who find themselves in direct competition with talent and freelancers from emerging countries. Tele migrants in 2021 are able to adapt to jobs requiring a high level of education, or even to occupy strategic positions in a company. Language barriers are no longer a barrier to employment, in a world where machine translation competes with human translation.

We then realize how thin the line between teleworking and relocation is. By relocating executive jobs abroad, we are also witnessing more significant spin-offs than they seem at first glance. Thus, taking a liking to teleworking, many urban managers have preferred to settle in rural areas, quieter and with a better quality of life. Did they really still need to stay in the big cities? This demetropolisation injects new dynamism into the small and medium-sized towns that local authorities have been looking forward to. In short, it is an indirect way of reducing spatial inequalities in certain countries.

In conclusion

Our societies and economies are changing, both in their structure and in their organization. But this small revolution on the move should not be seen as a threat. It opens us up to a new way of understanding globalization and may be an opportunity for certain sectors and services to make themselves more accessible and therefore ultimately create more jobs.

If your remote employment allows you to live in the country of your choice abroad, you will certainly need an expatriate health insurance that will cover you internationally, regardless of your travels and life plans.

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