The COVID pandemic has upended the way we work, allowing millions to work in either a complete remote or some sort of hybrid work environment. Coupled with the lower cost of living in other parts of the world, digital nomads have capitalized on living and working remotely.
According to MBO Partners “Working from the Road: The Aspirations and Reality for Digital Nomads” study, the US alone has 16.9 million digital nomads. Compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, this is an increase of 131% in jobs.
Whereas prior to the pandemic most digital nomads were freelancers on either project or short-term contract work, full-time employees are now working fully remotely. The report estimates that in the US salaried digital nomads have gone from 3.2 million in 2019 to 11.1 million in 2022.
This growing phenomenon is reshaping cities both in commercial and residential spaces. Co-working spaces, coffee shops and short-term rental offerings are becoming the norm, replacing older models of large office spaces and apartment complexes.
Whilst this has helped change cities like Chiang Mai to become one of the digital nomad capitals of the world, it is hurting other localities. Cities like Lisbon, which is in the midst of a housing crisis, are impacted negatively as the purchasing power remote western workers have been hurting the foreign population.
Along with the dwindling supply of affordable housing, the cost of living has also risen. Furthermore, English is becoming more prominent not just in business, but in general daily life around the city.
A conundrum of sorts as nomads bring economic prosperity to their new living environment, but also dilutes the very nature of what makes that new area unique. It also puts pressure on governments as if one cracks down on visas or entry requirements, digital nomads will quickly move to their neighboring countries to prosper.