As the trend towards remote working continues to grow across the world and looks set to be permanent, there are plenty of ways in which our working lives have been changed. There have already been countless pieces of coverage on how remote working is changing productivity, coworker relations, office politics, and even taxation. However, one area that has seldom been discussed is how remote working is already impacted long-standing trends in work-based migration.
Business resources like Forbes continue to track the sprawling list of major employers that have switched to permanent remote working practices. In light of this, we thought we’d look at how this looks set to change migration forever, with a particular focus on Polish expatriates, of which there are around 20 million, according to the latest figures from the Government of Poland. For these, remote work offers some unprecedented, largely positive changes. Let’s take a closer look at what these are.
More Poles are heading home, and staying there
One of the most immediately obvious ways in which remote working has impacted the overseas Polish community is the fact that, put simply, many are no longer overseas. Let’s take a look at one of the most popular destinations for Polish workers – the UK.
A recent report in the New European indicates that as many 200,000 Poles have left the UK in the past couple of years, driven by a multitude of factors, while fewer Polish people are applying to universities in the UK. One thing that is becoming clear is that many who have left have continued in their jobs, instead choosing to work remotely from Poland.
It is clear from a wealth of anecdotal evidence that other EU migrants have returned to their home countries and continued to work remotely. This is with many seeing little need to return to the countries where their offices are based.
For many Polish people, who may be able to continue working high-paid, skilled roles while being closer to family and enjoying lower living costs in their home country, remote working may have altered their life plans forever. It also helps that the Polish Government has been a keen advocate of remote working in all forms. Although it is too early to say whether these shifts amount to long-term, sustained trends, current evidence suggests that this might well be the case.
A mixed picture across industries
When stepping back and looking at how remote work is affecting different industries, the picture is far from uniform. Evidence has shown that those working in the creative industries, marketing, the public sector, and IT are much, much more likely to be working remotely on a permanent basis than virtually anyone else.
One thing that is interesting is the number of industries that can certainly make permanent remote working possible but are choosing not to. Chief among these are finance and law. Major financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs attracted headlines for being among the first to march all employees back into the office, owing largely to a strong, traditional working culture that is highly valued among executives.
There are elements of industries that were considered in-person only, such as hospitality and entertainment, which are now offering opportunities for remote work. One early pioneer in this regard is the gambling sector, which employs large numbers of migrant workers.
Much of the gambling industry has been online for years now. This is thanks to the early embrace of streaming technology by tech-savvy companies like Betway, which now employs dealers and croupiers to provide live-stream roulette games to players around the world. Instead of working in a physical casino, live casino employees can work from a live-stream studio in Malta, offering immersive roulette experiences to customers in the UK, for instance. As technology continues to develop and improve, it is possible that other areas of the hospitality and entertainment sectors will soon become remote as well.
New challenges arise for taxation
Although the benefits of working remotely can seem obvious, especially if you are receiving a Western European Salary in an Eastern European country, there are also pitfalls. As has been pointed out by the auditing experts at Deloitte, remote working overseas is now causing a number of tax challenges for employers and workers alike.
After all, different territories, even within the EU, have completely different tax regimes. A Polish person working remotely for a company in another country may or may not be considered a tax resident in that other country, depending on the local taxation laws.
On top of this, some EU countries that have traditionally been senders of immigrants are now luring remote workers back with so-called EU Digital Nomad Visas. These typically allow people to come and work remotely in the host country and pay virtually zero income tax, which is likely to prompt concerns over a race to the bottom as such schemes grow in popularity.
Croatia, Estonia, Italy, Portugal, and the Czech Republic all currently offer such schemes, with more EU countries likely to follow in the coming months and years.
However things play out in the world of work, it’s now obvious that remote working is not going anywhere. The true extent to which this shift will truly reshape work-based migration remains to be seen.