Tokyo and Singapore follow Melbourne in the ranking of “digital nomads”

SINGAPORE – The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that for many it is possible to work just about anywhere with an internet connection. A new ranking, however, shows that some places offer more benefits for “digital nomads” looking to do their jobs or freelance abroad – whenever border restrictions allow.

Asian cities are far behind on the list of the best places to live and work remotely, released Thursday by the European online housing platform Nestpick. Tokyo was sixth and Singapore seventh, the region’s only destinations in the top 10.

The four main cities – Melbourne, Dubai, Sydney and the Estonian capital Tallinn – are all located in countries listed as offering digital nomadic visas or similar permits that allow people to stay longer than tourists and work independently. .

As coronavirus vaccinations progress and countries begin to open up, many see the attraction of digital nomads as a strategy to inject much needed money into failed economies, whether through taxation or consumption. So far, Asian countries have not jumped on the bandwagon, although Indonesia and Thailand are close to doing so.

Omer Kucukdere, founder and CEO of Nestpick, told Nikkei Asia that countries with digital nomadic visas offer “a much more attractive proposition” for those who can work from anywhere.

“Digital nomadic visas remove a potential barrier for remote workers, allowing them to move more freely within a country and without encountering stressful legislation,” he said. Japan and Singapore have working holiday or entrepreneur visa programs, but their scope is relatively limited.

Visas are just one consideration in the ranking, which takes into account 16 parameters, including rents, security, pollution and vaccination rates. Even without visas specifically targeted at digital nomads, Tokyo and Singapore reached the top 10, performing well in areas such as remote work infrastructure, healthcare, culture and recreation, the CEO explained. .

Overall, Kucukdere said Asian destinations were held back by relatively high rents or low scores for pollution and safety. “For many people, the hassle and cost of moving abroad can be an obstacle that decreases the likelihood that they will ever do so,” Kucukdere added.

But the spread of digital nomadic visas could be a game-changer in Asia.

“If digital nomadic visas are approved in Indonesia and Thailand, there will likely be an influx of remote workers looking for a lifestyle change,” Kucukdere said. “Digital nomads are driven by the desire to experience new cultures while working in fulfilling work, and the strong cultural fabrics and beautiful landscapes of Indonesia and Thailand make them very attractive options for relocation.”

The concept of nomadic visas is gaining momentum. Estonia adopted what is considered the first true ‘digital nomad visa’ last year, followed by Dubai two months later. Nestpick’s ranking treats existing working holiday visa programs in Australia as equivalent. Croatia introduced new legislation and 12-month visas for digital nomads this year.

Four Caribbean island nations – Barbados, Bermuda, Anguilla and the Cayman Islands – also rolled out the welcome mat. Some other countries offer similar visas for nomads or the self-employed.

A woman works on a laptop in the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. The Australian city tops Nestpick’s Work from Anywhere index. © AP

Maybank Kim Eng, the brokerage arm of Malaysian lender Malayan Banking, noted in late April that Thailand approved a proposal in December that would allow freelancers to work remotely for up to four years under an existing Smart Visa program. .

He also observed that in Indonesia, Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno proposed a new long-term visa that would allow foreigners to stay for up to five years, with the aim of helping revitalize Bali’s battered tourism industry. . Uno told the Bangkok Post this week that nomads would not be taxed on the income they earn outside the country.

Maybank’s report Kim Eng explained: “The exit of expatriates and affluent foreigners from the region has prompted some countries to rethink their immigration rules and launch new programs to take advantage of telework, digitization and modalities. more permanent home work.

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