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The power of global relocation: How talent mobility can shape the future of economies

In the post-pandemic world, the success or failure of any society would be its ability to attract the skilled global citizens, leveraging their skills to build back stronger and better

With the needs of potential migrants shifting as the Covid-19 situation evolves, up-to-date efficient solutions are needed to help them manage movements across borders. PHOTO: MOOVAZ

April 2020 will long be remembered as the month the world stood still, says leading geopolitics and globalisation strategist, and international best-selling author Dr Parag Khanna.

“The Great Lockdown was the single most widely coordinated act in human history,” he adds. Dr Khanna is also the advisor and chief futurist of Moovaz, a Singapore-based human mobility technology platform that helps people relocate internationally. 

The Covid-19 pandemic shocked world governments into a state of reclusivity, closed borders, quarantines and social distancing, in a bid to contain the virus which has tragically claimed the lives of millions. This brought an abrupt end to an age of unprecedented globalisation and international human mobility, with 1.5 billion people crossing borders in 2019 alone. 

With the reopening of borders, new archetypes of physical mobility, virtual mobility and remote work would sweep across organisations around the globe, spurring global mobility past its previous highs, with some governments now poised to make remote working a legal right. 

Prior to 2020, “digital nomad visa” was not a term commonly used amongst governments. Fast forward to today, up to 80 governments globally have implemented renditions of just that, in a bid to attract the highly-skilled and globally-mobile talents of the world. Indeed, the youths of today are no longer bound by conventional borders and sovereignty. 

“They are voting with their feet. Those with capacity, talent and connections are able to live wherever they want to be,” shares Dr Khanna. “One telling metric, to predict the success or failure of any society in the world, would be their ability to attract the skilled youths of tomorrow and today.”

When did global relocation become a megatrend?

Since the start of the internet era in the 2000s, global relocation as a megatrend became more pronounced as connectivity increased and the movement of people from one place in the world to another intensified.

The numbers speak for themselves: The global migrant stock stood at 268 million in 2020, up from 212 million in 2010 and 166 million in 2000, according to Moovaz’s 2022 Human Mobility Report, citing data from the United Nations. In the past decade alone, 54 million people have become migrants, approximately the population of South Korea.

Global relocation on the ascent. The number of migrants has been on a steady and accelerating incline since 1990. Source: International Organization for Migration, United Nations

While not all are moving for work, those who do cite career prospects, better quality of life, and the opportunity to broaden their personal experiences as key reasons for their relocation, according to a survey of almost 209,000 global workforce respondents in 190 countries conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and The Network in 2020. 

It found that a new key determinant had arisen amidst the pandemic – the attractiveness of a destination for work. In support of this, according to the Human Mobility Report by Moovaz, the ability of a government to competently respond to the Covid-19 pandemic had a direct correlation with the level of attractiveness of a country to global citizens.

Ease of relocating 

Ms Asma Qadah is a global citizen on the hunt for a country where she can live and work as a digital nomad. The travel content creator is currently in Tunisia, after spending the month of May in neighbouring Algeria. 
 
"I tend to visit a country and test living there for a couple of months, learn about the country and its regulations, infrastructure and people, then decide whether to stay for a year or move on to the next location," says the Malaysian national who has visited around 30 countries.

Even as the pandemic grounded tourism and relocation, people’s willingness to travel and move for work remained resilient and strong. 

With borders reopening and most pandemic-induced restrictions lifted, the pace of global relocation has swiftly picked up as countries emerge from the pandemic.
 
But relocating to a foreign country is an often stressful, complex, multi-stage process that requires a high level of involvement and commitment from many parties involved. 
 
"As a digital nomad, it’s hard to navigate in a new country or region sometimes," says the seasoned traveller.
 
"Sure, we have been travelling a lot, but different countries come with different requirements and it helps to reach out to digital nomad facilitating personnel or companies for relocating, especially with family or pets," she adds. 

Relocation technology, or ReloTech for short, has the untapped potential to provide solutions for globally mobile talents like her. Accounting for just 0.1 per cent of the US$32 billion global relocation market in 2020, ReloTech is significantly under-represented as compared to other industries where technology adoption is more mature, such as EduTech and FinTech. 
 
With the pandemic bringing about a fresh wave of evolution to migration policies, as well as a company’s strategic HR mobility policies, there is great opportunity and impetus for service providers in the global mobility industry to evolve and further embrace new business models and technologies.
 
The dynamics of global mobility look set to continue to evolve, fuelled by advancements in the fundamental rethinking of what constitutes a “workplace” in itself, as well as a shift of onus of relocation from corporations to individuals in the past few years. 

While these fast unfolding shifts can pose a serious challenge for some, it represents a greenfield opportunity to leverage technology as a solution, as well as tap into the consumer market, says Moovaz. 
 
Read Moovaz's Human Mobility Report 2022: Technology to empower the movement of people here.

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