“Global nomads” have been a fixture in talent mobility almost from the beginning: employees who left their home country years ago and have progressed from assignment to assignment and country to country. While they traverse the globe for their companies, moving from assignment to assignment and operating almost like gig workers, they are nonetheless permanent employees and managed as such. These individuals do not localize, but remain attached to their home country for the majority of their compensation and benefit coverage.
What is a Gig Worker?
Today, some companies are beginning to use gig workers for global assignments, often sequential, that permanent employees, including global nomads, would have filled in the past. In a gig employment relationship, companies do not employ workers directly and permanently. Instead, they contract workers as needed to complete a specific project or to serve for a defined term. When the contracted project work or term is completed, neither the worker nor the employer has any further obligation to the other party. The worker is free to move on to another gig. Subsequent projects might be with the same employer, a different company or sometimes even an industry competitor.
Benefits to Employers of Gig Workers
For employers, the positives of employing global gig workers include:
- Access to high-level expertise/unique skill sets
- A broad talent pool
- Geographic flexibility
- The ability to continue/end a contract or hire the worker permanently
- No responsibility for the worker’s career path/planning or figuring out what to do with a returning expat
Challenges with Global Nomads
Companies who wish to deploy gig workers as freelance global nomads on sequential, short-term contracts can face a world of difficulties, however. The issues include:
- Compliance with immigration and local country labor laws
- Taxation: Who is responsible for payment?
- Compensation: Where and in what currency?
- Performance: What happens if the contract employee does not perform? Was repatriation in the event of non-performance included in the contract?
Global gig work is an emerging trend, and employers and mobility service providers are following developments closely. Some countries likely will take a more accommodating stance towards global gig workers, perhaps creating a model for others. Estonia has become the first country to address the immigration issue: it is preparing to launch a visa specifically geared to gig or “nomad” professionals. Expect other countries to follow shortly, in an effort to stay competitive.
If you are considering deploying gig workers in other countries, it is critical that you consider and address all of the above questions and potential issues. Your relocation management company can offer guidance and help you to develop a sound plan.