COVID-19 has marked a before and after in every aspect of our lives, but few global spaces have been as impacted as the international race for human capital. If 2019 and the beginning of 2020 had already left certain traces that its trend was upward, the post-pandemic world has arrived with a total revolution.
On the one hand, there has been a surge in interest in nationality-by-investment and residency programs for digital nomads, as living conditions in every country in the world have changed dramatically. And hand in hand with this, there has been a total change in the ranking tables of the destinations of choice: now, among the new preferred countries are those that are doing best in this uncertain post-COVID world.
The Bloomberg Resilience Index
A good example of this was on October 27, when the Bloomberg television network, a beacon for many investors and digital nomads, published its ranking of resilience to the pandemic. And there, surprise surprise, Spain, which a year and a half ago was among the worst destinations, was now in second place. Why? Because the steps it has taken in this new world — in terms of vaccination, restrictions and employment policies — seem to have convinced the experts.
Thus, Bloomberg came to recognize what the year 2020 and so far in 2021 had made very clear: that it makes no difference to be an advanced economy, like the UK or the US, if the pandemic has not been tackled effectively. Without going any further, last year saw a record number of Americans seeking secondary citizenship in 2020, as well as the British rushing to secure access to the EU on the eve of Brexit. By contrast, other countries, even developing ones, have managed to defy expectations.
The target audience for this index is a new social class on the rise: the "global nomads," a burgeoning sector among the affluent. This term, originally coined to describe a subset of tech workers who collect Silicon Valley salaries while camping out in Chiang Mai or Bali, now refers to a person who works from anywhere. There are thousands, if not millions of people who are in search of destinations in this new world.
Governments make a move
A new era has thus dawned, and changes have begun to appear in terms of global governance. For example, the European Commission has chosen this moment to scrap the investment immigration programs of Malta and Cyprus, while hinting that the real estate-driven golden visa programs of Portugal and other countries could be next to be eliminated.
At the same time, a national alternative to secondary citizenship was introduced last year in the form of "nomad visas," which give the right to live and work in Europe's Schengen area for a year or more. The condition is that it is earned abroad and spent domestically.
In addition, during the height of the 2020 blockade, an arms race was launched to attract talent among countries around the globe. From Barbados — which was the first — to Bermuda, Anguilla, Antigua, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean; Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Norway and Croatia in Europe, or Dubai in the Middle East. All of these countries have sought to apply the most attractive reforms and lax policies to take over Western nomadic workers.
The case of the USA and Canada
Few situations make this struggle for global talent clearer than the comparison of the US and Canada. While the aforementioned nations in Europe, Asia or the Caribbean are preparing their bets in this area, the US is now struggling under the Biden administration to reverse the damage of President Trump's decision to temporarily suspend the H-1B program. That decision by the former president may have cut the market capitalization of the largest US tech stocks by as much as $100 billion, having deprived them of international labor at a critical juncture.
By contrast, the Canadian federal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to increase post-pandemic immigration to levels not seen in a century as part of an economic strategy to revitalize the country.
It is clear that nations around the world face the same dilemma: how to deal with global talent from now on? Like the US, by closing the doors? Or by opening them wide, like Canada?
COVID-19 has ushered in a new world, in which the most educated and wealthy classes will seek to live in the best possible place, in an optimal economic and health context. For their part, the states that wish to do so will prepare their best offers for these global nomads.
Nothing will be like it used to be. Not so long ago, any emigrant sought a passport from the U.S., the U.K. or France. Perhaps we are facing the end of this old model? Diversifying citizenship: an asset for the post-Covid world?
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