With a rising demand for highly skilled workers, hybrid work opportunities, and a more discerning workforce, the immigration landscape is evolving to accommodate a new working environment.
This is according to the Fragomen Worldwide Immigration Trends Report 2023, which cites the effects of the war in Ukraine, waning of restrictive COVID-19 policies, the economic downturn, and an all-time high global competition for talent as the main causes of this evolution.
“More than ever, the world of work and our ability to navigate it is being tested, and especially in the developing world, we must maintain our own talent pools while also making it easier to receive new, international talent to close potential skill gaps,” says Lunga Mani, Practice Leader for Sub-Saharan Africa.
The report has highlighted the new pathways for highly skilled talent – both in and outside of the developing world.
“In 2022, we saw an enriched environment of streamlined and relaxed immigration rules from all around the world, aimed at easing business and work travel and attracting foreign workforces. We also saw a slow increase in migration paths tailored to highly skilled talent. These government policy changes are in line with the corporate strategy to play offense in the face of oncoming hurdles,” the report reads.
This new legislative trend – and the waning of COVID-19 travel restrictions – is also leading to the development of new tools to control migration flows. However, it appears that there are two directions to this control, with the report citing examples of countries making slightly more stringent travel requirements (such as Qatar’s Hayya card for the 2022 FIFA World Cup ), or those relaxing restrictions to encourage more visitors and increase tourism revenue (such as Saudi Arabia).
However, regarding work-related immigration trends, the report explains a concerning paradox: though unemployment rates are lowering in many countries, job positions are going unfilled at record levels. This is especially true in the IT, Sales & Marketing, Operations & Logistics, Manufacturing & Production, and Customer Facing sectors.
“The worker and skill gap is taking a toll on global economies and immigration policy is at the forefront as a solution to this problem,” the report reads.
New visa pathways are emerging across the globe to try and end regional skill shortages, and by making it easier to immigrate, the potential for brain drains across numerous sectors is a very real threat.
Yet for those able to work remotely, online systems and remote work visas are also becoming more prevalent, meaning that even though a highly skilled worker remains in the country, their skills are still being exported.
The list of countries with remote work/digital nomad visas continues to grow. There are currently at least 36 countries that have adopted such policies, with those in Africa including Mauritius and Namibia, with a programme pending in South Africa.
“However, the digital nomad trend has highlighted concerns around the digital divide in developing countries, as those with internet access, equipment, and better infrastructure have greater opportunities – international and otherwise – than those without,” says Mani.
“Despite market challenges, more than half of the world’s population is likely to be online within the next two decades, making it even more important to raise the digital skills of governments, businesses, and individuals alike. While government intervention will be an integral part of the solution to this skills gap, employers will also need to support their employees by investing in online learning opportunities to bridge existing and emerging digital divides,” the report reads.