The Future of Global Mobility
- Travel restrictions: More paperwork because of Covid, more overcrowded flights, and soon we’ll pay a kerosene tax to save the environment because the biggest polluter pays the most.
- Digitalization: Are digital nomads and the FIRE movement the new normal? A few pitfalls to consider: occupational accident insurance, the 183-day rule and the 25% rule.
- War for talent: How can we alleviate the pressure on shortage occupations? By motivating the unemployed, by attracting migrants and by investing in new technologies.
- Deglobalization: Geopolitical tensions are rising because multiple countries covet the rare raw materials found in the strait between Taiwan and China.
- Focus on mental well-being: During the pandemic, mental well-being got more attention than ever before, and this trend has included expats’ mental well-being.
Buckle up because we’re taking you on a trip to the future—a journey around the world with a remarkable U-turn. Are you a digital nomad, a visionary or an expat? Get ready! We’ll update you on a world in motion and what it means for your insurance.
You may be wondering: What insurance? Is that even necessary? Well, imagine you’re a digital nomad. You enjoy life but you work hard. You’re sitting on a beach one day, just tapping away on your laptop for work, when suddenly a coconut falls on your head. A small concussion later, you realize that your insurance doesn’t cover you because physically you were not in the office. Are you seeing stars? We’d like to share our insights with you by summing up the latest news and the most important changes and pitfalls.
You’re going to Thailand and so you bring: a toothbrush, sunscreen, sunglasses, shampoo and, oh yes, a whole bunch of Covid documents. And what you need for Thailand isn’t necessarily what you need for other countries. Are you thinking, “Help?” We’re happy to help and give you more information about what you need, and you can also visit the website of the Federal Public Service of Foreign Affairs. Okay, you now have all the information you need. You book your plane ticket, but in the airport you’re told that the plane is overbooked. Airlines overbooking flights already happens regularly, but after the pandemic, this will happen even more. It’s economic reality, they want to cut their losses. If you’re lucky, you missed only a flight from Brussels to Hamburg. You can still reach your destination in this case by taking a FlixBus or a BlaBlaCar or your colleague’s private jet. But all this flying isn’t good for the environment. And we have to realize the Green Deal, so paying a kerosene tax will become a fact of life. In a nutshell: the more you pollute, the more you pay. There are definitely more than enough green alternatives: you can walk the Camino, travel by train or cancel those business trips by opting for video calls instead (you will save so much time).
Maybe you’re getting tired of those video calls from the home front? A digital nomad has a better option, of course. You no longer travel for work. No, you travel and then you work from your travel destination. Imagine: you’re a lawyer and you plead your case via video call while enjoying the Bahamas. It’s possible! During the height of the pandemic, we all worked from home. A lot of employers realized that when control mechanisms were no longer in place, employees were still great at their jobs. And employees realized that they could coordinate their projects just as well from their own garden, so why not from the Bahamas?
Do you want to go even further? Then join the ‘FIRE’ (Financial Independence and Retire Early) movement. They have a more frugal lifestyle than the digital nomads and are experts in actively investing a portion of their income. These shares yield dividends. Are you financially literate? Then this could be a good option to achieve early retirement, sometimes even at 35. Stefan Willems is a FIRE adopter and digital nomad. He devours information about the stock market and writes articles about it.
Inspired by Stefan Willems, you may decide to become a digital nomad. If so, remember a few common pitfalls. First, if you’re an employee, your occupational accident insurance may not cover you everywhere in the world. (Remember the coconut story at the beginning of this blog?) Better to be safe than sorry, so inform your employer and/or insurance about your new “place of work.” Second, if you have to stay in one country for at least 183 days of the year you’ll have to pay taxes there. Not a great rule if you’re a digital nomad who wants to see the world. Too much hassle? You can also work as a cross-border worker. Thanks to the pandemic, the 25% rule (which decides which country is responsible for your social security) does not apply for the time being, but it can change again after the Covid-crisis..
War for talent
For the digital nomad or expat, it’s also important to understand the broader framework of the labor market. We’re seeing a shift in production because Trump—but also Biden—started investing more in producing goods domestically. And America therefore needs to expand its labor force. Because of the pandemic, production was on hold for a long time as well and is only now slowly picking up again. In the short term, we could encourage people who are unemployed or on long-term disability leave to go back to work, but the unemployment rate is quite low in some countries. In the medium term, migrants and asylum seekers could offer a solution. Some of them have skills that are a perfect fit for the many shortage occupations. Canada and the US have a selection procedure for immigrants: if you meet their conditions and you enrich the country, your chances of entering the country as an immigrant are very high. The United Kingdom has decided to allow barely any immigrants into the country, which has led to empty grocery store shelves and gas stations. Immigrants are desperately needed. In the longer term, artificial intelligence and robotization could lead to less migration. Jobs will change and employees will get different roles.
The shift in production from the East to the West, and the higher education in developing countries, also means we will need fewer high skilled expats. The West will depend mostly on inpats to start up production again. Trump especially wanted to expand domestic production, but this led to geopolitical tensions. Many rare raw materials can be found in the strait between China and Taiwan. The more we invest in electrification in the future, the more we will need those raw materials. China staked their claim, but America, Canada and Australia also want a piece of the raw materials commodity trade. They don’t want to become dependent on China, which is already partially the case for Europe.
China already capitalizes longer on protectionism. When starting up foreign projects in China, at least 30% of the crew needs to be hired domestically. Thanks to this requirement, these employees will learn new skills, which they can use in future projects. China is making progress in the tech industry as well. By manufacturing products for us, they are gaining an incredible amount of knowledge. That said, China is not yet breaking through into the international market because their main focus is their own national market. An example is DiDi, the Chinese Uber, which the Chinese government recalled from the stock market. On the other hand, Chinese companies are buying into Western companies (such as Geely, which bought up Volvo). How many Chinese brands do you know which are active in the West?
Focus on mental well-being
We gave you a ton of information about the economy in this article, but the human side of being an expat is just as important. During the pandemic, we all paid a lot more attention to the mental well-being of employees, and this trend will influence expats’ lives as well. The adaptability of the expat is essential. These days, we see it all too often that the partner or family members of the expat are having a hard time adjusting. These family members should be able to get more support.
Because of Teams, Zoom and environmental concerns, we will travel less. Fewer European expats will move to the East. Instead, America will become the more likely choice. Semiskilled expats from other continents will move to Europe and America. We live in a rapidly changing world, but Expat & Co developed the Chameleon Principle a long time: a portable insurance adapting continually to what you need.
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