By NADIA MICHEL
As countries look inward from a manufacturing perspective, technology is enabling a global job market that is no longer limited by borders.
It’s a small world. Though you can’t quite teleport yourself to the opposite end of the globe, getting there virtually takes less time than it does to book a flight. This opens up a whole new realm for job markets in every single corner of the planet—provided there is high speed internet.
There are obvious advantages to having access to talent from anywhere in the world. “With a centralized team, you’re limiting yourself to talent within your city. Having a remote team places no limits on who you can hire. You can onboard a developer from the other side of the world without ever having to worry about visa applications and other costs,” says Ibrahim Alkurd, the CEO of New Mine, a blockchain mining hardware & software company, and a partner at Lavaliere Capital, a digital asset hedge fund, in an recent article published on Forbes.com.
And also some downsides. “Remote work also comes with a potential psychological cost. Humans are social creatures. We like meeting face to face and interacting with one another. The lack of face-to-face interaction can create a sense of disconnect between team members,” Alkurd reminds us. That’ s unlikely to slow down the trend though: Facebook has already announced that it expects half of its 48,000 employees to work remotely over next five to 10 years.
Interestingly, telecommuting also has the potential of removing some of the impact that any given local economy has on its workforce and ultimately, helping to even out some of the disparities that exist between countries. As an example, Lebanon, a country in the midst of an economic crisis, is ranked globally as the 4th best country for math and science education, and as the 10th best overall for quality. Much of the population is bilingual and proficient in either English or French in addition to Arabic. Yet, thanks to a failed government and widespread corruption by the multi-confessional leadership, that country has seen an estimated 300,000 job losses by end of Q1 2020, according to Stronger Together — an organization of 150 Lebanese CEOs that formed after the crisis that began in October 2019 to try and mitigate its effect on their businesses. Additionally, at least 27 percent of the population there lives below the poverty line.
From an employer’s perspective, this represents a large pool of qualified applicants and a less competitive playing field in terms of salaries. It’s a win-win situation and one that inspired the recently launched platform, Jobs for Lebanon.
Roy Baladi, the San Francisco-based Head of Communications at SmartRecruiters who co-founded Jobs for Lebanon, came up with a strategy that would do two things: extend a lifeline to a population that is drowning and fulfill the needs of SmartRecruiters existing clients, many of who are global corporations (like Ikea and American Express) looking for the most efficient way to run their operations.
The second reason it works? JFL is now a hub for the Lebanese diaspora, which is estimated to be around 8–10 million people (compared to 4 million citizens residing inside the small Mediterranean country). It creates a unique opportunity for them to connect with their roots and show tangible support for their homeland.
“There are some cool jobs,” he points out. “There’s an e-bike company from the Netherlands, owned by a Lebanese and Dutch team, which hired a Chief Experience Officer who would work remotely from Lebanon,” Baladi says during our interview on The Men’s Room podcast.
“And as an employer, you’re literally getting the tools that some of the top companies on Earth are getting- and pay for – for free,” he adds. “We’re looking to create as many jobs as possible for the Lebanese to uplift the entire economy,” adds Baladi. It’s a model that could be replicated in many countries, especially those that struggle politically and economically.
When you consider the positive impacts this might have, including less traffic on the roads, a reduction in energy consumption as offices scale back and the immeasurably more efficient link between workforce supply and demand, it’s safe to say that the world will never be the same after COVID-19. That’s a good thing for most of us who relish the freedom of working from the location of our choice, a good thing for the planet and a good thing for the world’s economies in the long term.
Sure, some of us occasionally dream of retreating to a log cabin in one of the few remaining, tech-free zones with no internet, deep in a protected forest surrounded by spider monkeys (did I just say that out loud?). But this global shift that technology has enabled and that COVID-19 has accelerated, namely to give people more freedom as they secure their livelyhood, is quite a historical moment in time for humankind, and not just from an economic perspective. The era of digital nomads is upon us.