Virtual Mobility Around the World: The New Frontier

A new survey report reveals that workers’ willingness to physically relocate for work has decreased, while international remote work has only grown in popularity, offering new challenges for mobility.

Results from a new survey of 209,000 participants in 190 countries from the Boston Consulting Group and The Network reveals that workers’ willingness to physically relocate for work has decreased, while international remote work has only grown in popularity. This trend shines a light on the need for a comprehensive international remote work strategy to face the challenges of managing a global virtual workforce.

Top National Destinations Face a Shift

According to the report, about fifty percent are willing to move to another country for work, down from 64% in 2014 and 57% in 2018. This lower willingness was felt in almost every country, with Latvia, Denmark and China the three countries least willing to relocate, and Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar most willing to relocate.

The report also explored top relocation destinations and found that the United States has fallen from its top spot as the number one location for high skilled workers, replaced by Canada. Similarly fallen in rankings is Germany; while it remains the top destination in Europe, it fell in the overall rankings. Countries who fell completely from the top ten were Italy and Spain, while countries who rose to the top were Canada, Australia, and Japan. What do these rising stars have in common? They are commonly viewed as countries with a stronger COVID-19 response and management of the pandemic.

Workers are Drawn to International Remote Work

It is clear that countries with stronger control over the pandemic will fare best for global mobility, but another kind of mobility has taken center stage. Call it “virtual mobility” or “international remote work,” workers are drawn to the prospect of working remotely for an employer not based in their home country, with 56.9% of respondents globally showing interest in this approach. The U.S. may have faced a blow by dropping from its top relocation spot, but it remains number one for international remote work, followed by Australia, Canada, Germany, and the U.K.

International Remote Work Challenges and Opportunities

This trend confirms what many in mobility know: while the physical relocation of workers may have decreased as a result of the pandemic, the rise in remote work is the new frontier for many companies and workforce relocation professionals. It’s a different challenge, but one that can offer new opportunities to tap into an even wider scale of global talent, while said talent are afforded more opportunities to advance their careers without physically moving to another location.

The report points out challenges for employers and governments to navigate. Legal and regulatory complexity, such as taxes, labor laws and regulations that differ around the world are issues that HR departments will contend with. However, seventeen governments have already introduced visas that simplify the recruitment of foreign remote workers, while some offer tax incentives for their most-needed talent.

Despite further issues around time zones, cultural differences, and salaries, employers who develop a comprehensive international remote worker strategy will be key to solving skills shortages while tapping into diverse talent pools and accelerating business growth. Along the way, mobility professionals will be there to help businesses solve even the most complex international remote work challenges, as they have done throughout the global pandemic, further demonstrating that mobility is where work is going.

Want to Learn More?

With the rise in international remote work comes additional tax considerations for the distributed workforce. In this month’s issue of Mobility magazine, “The Tax Evolution” feature looks at the new norm of nontraditional work situations, and how mobility professionals are paying close attention to the impact of tax policies and the redefined global workplace. To learn how they’re doing that, members can subscribe and read the issue now!

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