Forward thinking cities and countries everywhere are rolling out inspired initiatives to win global workers over.
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At no point in human history has global talent been more on the move, with so many opportunities available in just about every corner of the world. In fact, the very nature of work is changing, to the point now where job skills rightfully trump passports and national borders. It’s an exciting time for workers with big aspirations, and even bigger ideas. The result is an emerging borderless workforce of digital nomads who are opting to work online without a fixed location. It’s a trend that has pushed governments and organizations alike to compete to attract the world’s top talent.
Rising to the challenge
Forward-thinking cities and countries everywhere are rolling out inspired initiatives to win global workers over, rethinking business structures and government policies to meet the demands of today’s mobile workforce. All of this is part of an effort to support and encourage the best of the best to relocate. A global arms race for talent is heating up, fueled by organizations’ needs to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world.
Take for example the Baltic country of Estonia — my home country of 1.3 million people — which is increasingly seen as a blueprint for how smaller countries can compete on a global scale. Estonia has found success by embracing tech innovation and digital workforces through public and private sector collaborations. Estonia is the first country to offer e-Residency, a government-issued digital ID available to anyone in the world, streamlining the process of starting and managing a global business in the country. There is also an effort underway, started by my company, Jobbatical, along with Estonia’s Ministry of Interior, to establish a digital nomad visa program to make it easier for workers to relocate to Estonia.
Marking the mobility landscape
Efforts like these are starting to pop up all over, fostered by welcoming cultures that see the social value of attracting global talent. And by embracing diversity through business, these countries are also reaping the economic benefits as well.
We know that global talent is on the move, but there are lingering questions about where and why. To understand, I liken global mobility to pins on a map. I want to know what destinations have the most pins, attract the most talented individuals, and what factors make those locations attractive. That’s what Jobbatical set out to discover.
Our recent survey research of 2,100 professionals, in partnership with the University of Cambridge and Launchfield, aimed to identify factors driving mobility decisions in global talent, determine the defining factors of tech and innovation hubs around the world and map perceptions of global tech locations held by tech professionals and startup founders.
Why London (and Europe) is calling for top talent
One of the more eye-catching findings is the continued allure of London, which our research found was the single most attractive city for startup founders, and second most “important tech and innovation hub” in the world. And when respondents were asked what makes a city a good place to move to, the top answers were job opportunities and culture, two areas where London excels.
One can argue that London’s diverse culture is unparalleled, but tech job opportunities are also aplenty right now in the U.K. In fact, the U.K. tech sector is growing a whopping 2.6 times faster than the rest of the U.K. economy. That pace has a lot of fuel behind it too, with research from London & Partners showing British tech firms have raised $6.6 billion in VC funding since June 2016 — more than Germany ($2.8 billion), France ($1.9 billion) and Sweden ($853 million) combined.
London may have inherent advantages in attracting global talent, but other European Union cities are gaining popularity and interest as well. Among the 31 cities named in our research as most attractive for starting a business, 11 were European, including Tallinn, Estonia; Berlin; Barcelona, Spain and Stockholm. Not only do these cities offer job opportunities and unique cultural experiences, but specifically Stockholm and Tallinn have low rates of crime, which was identified as one of the top factors for attracting global talent. These cities also have the advantages of more open borders, which could eventually prove a hindrance for London after Brexit.
Singapore on top
I’ve talked about Estonia and London as examples in global mobility and attracting top talent, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t note Singapore in the conversation. Our research found this city-state as the most important tech and innovation hub in the world, ahead of all others, including New York, London and San Francisco.
It may seem a little surprising, but all the factors are there for Singapore. Of course, natural beauty plays a role in attracting talent here, but the ease of doing business is another big reason why Singapore is a magnet for startups and talent. Last year, Singapore was named by The World Bank as the second easiest economy for doing business, which runs parallel to what our respondents said, that ease of doing business makes a city a good place to start a company.
Digital nomads, here to stay
A common thread throughout our research was that diverse cultures that welcome global talent are showing us what the economies of tomorrow look like. The next step is raising awareness about why this matters, highlighting how digital nomads are key cogs in a new global economy. They’re not going away; to the contrary, they are just beginning to flex their economic muscle.
Digital nomads’ value in filling skills gaps should be acknowledged by policymakers. Important measures — like a review of the visa processes — would be a crucial first step. Ideas like Estonia’s digital nomad visa are a path forward in the ways governments can support tech companies and its workers. All of this lays the groundwork to embrace what digital nomads can bring to the table, and begin to realize the many opportunities a world without borders can offer.