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Remote Workforces Present Global Opportunities to Employees

Iffi Wahla, CEO and Co-Founder of global hiring platform Edge, discusses how remote workforces are opening up opportunities to skilled talent in developing nations

Since the remote working trend became a global norm during the pandemic, plenty has been written about its impact on employment practices and quality of life in developed nations. Thought leaders have discussed how working patterns have changed, office culture and policies have had to adapt and the long term effect on everything from commuting patterns to the makeup of inner cities. What hasn’t been explored to the same degree is how, with any business able to develop a worldwide remote workforce, the remote working phenomenon is impacting nations considered to be ‘developing’.

Developing nations generally do not have large, advanced services and technology sectors. As such, many workers wishing to develop a career in these fields have had to emigrate. This is an option that is only open to a small percentage of people. Many western countries are also tightening their immigration rules to make it more complex, expensive and uncertain to make the move. Consequently, a huge swath of the world’s population has been locked out of many of the most lucrative, innovative and exciting careers. Remote working can change this equation.

First, let’s get some perspective on the largely untapped talent that exists in many developing nations. Latin America is a good place to start. Statista reported in 2023 there are approximately 500,000 software developers in Brazil, Mexico has around 220,000 and Argentina totals 115,000. While concrete figures on the number of data scientists are harder to come by, research by Coursera, shows that a number of Latin American countries are leading the way in training the next generation of specialists. The report found that Latin American students are 2.4 times more likely to invest in data science skills and technology skills such as programming principles than the global average. 20% of Mexican college graduates have relevant engineering degrees, amounting to over 110,000 per year, far in excess of the U.S. The same pattern is largely present in the subcontinent and Africa.

Compare this pool of skilled workers to the relative size of their country’s advanced industries and you see the disconnect. According to Statista, in 2023 the US accounted for 36% of the global ICT market, Europe (including the UK) 21%, China 12%, Japan 6% and India 2%. Every other nation combined totaled 24%. To make matters worse, this percentage share is shrinking by around 2% every year. The entire South American tech sector is worth $517 billion – which is roughly half of the UK’s alone.

In contrast, the situation in the west is the reverse – booming tech industries but an acute skills shortage. Add to this, the lower cost of living in developing nations and you can easily see why it is so attractive to look to these countries for recruitment. The final piece of the puzzle is that technology has made the identification, hiring, onboarding, management, communication and contracting of these workers so much faster, cheaper and easier.

Some of you reading this might think, ‘Wait a moment, tech companies often create satellite offices in places like India or Eastern Europe’. That is true – but there’s a big difference between setting up a development or data hub in Poland with recruiting a product marketer from Pakistan, alongside a CTO from Peru and a compliance officer from Nigeria. A truly global workforce can leverage the best talent from any nation – not just take advantage of lower employment costs to execute prescribed development work.

For skilled workers living in developing nations this opens the doors to a world of possibilities. Any job in any industry is now essentially fully accessible without having to leave their home country. These individuals can secure high paying jobs which brings more money into their local economies. Crucially, it also retains talent in these countries. One of the major reasons developing nations struggle to catch up to the west is due to huge brain drains. Instead, people can gain valuable experience and knowledge by working with western countries and then apply it in their home market. Although it is early days, I would not be surprised if the remote working trend leads to a boom in entrepreneurship in these developing nations. Remember, people are not just getting access to a job, they are being exposed to innovation, working practices, and contacts that could all be leveraged in the future.

Remote, global workforces are not going to be a silver bullet that closes the gap between the first world and developing nations. What it does do is present an unparalleled opportunity to a young generation of ambitious and skilled workers. The impact of this will be felt for decades to come.