Michelle Reilly, CEO of 6CATS International, looks at how the world has started to open its borders
In the May edition of Global Recruiter, I provided an update on the various international lockdowns and what trends we were noticing in contractor placements and opportunities across the globe. While that was only a month ago, a lot has changed since then.
We’ve seen an increase in the lifting of travel bans for some destinations, while others remain on strict lockdown or even face the possibility of a second wave of Covid-19. For agencies making contract placements, times really are challenging and staying ahead of what’s happening on a country-by-country basis is no easy task.
Travel begins again
While this information is subject to change (and quickly if recent months are anything to go on), at the time of writing there had been some positive developments for global travel. Under the supervision of the European Commission, a few destinations have begun to re-open borders, with a number of caveats being added by local authorities. Italy has opened its borders to EU nationals and UK residents, while the likes of Spain are imposing set quarantines for travellers entering the country.
Others are planning to begin accepting citizens from neighbouring destinations to allow some freedom of movement while still containing the spread of the virus. Denmark, for example, still plans to reopen for visitors from Norway, Iceland and Germany from 15th June. The Baltic States have also allowed free movement between the three countries.
The impact on contractor recruitment
In this environment, the team here at 6CATS have noted some promising signs. We’re seeing a general increase in interest to once again start placing contractors internationally, with more agencies noting an uptick in engagement with employers. And while the majority of borders remain closed, clients are starting to make plans for when contractors can travel. This is particularly the case across the Middle East, Asia and parts of Europe at the moment.
Where we’re seeing new opportunities emerge for contractors there are a number of destinations that are driving demand. Asia is definitely a growing market to keep an eye on, with Pakistan and China currently leading much of the region’s demand for contract professionals (though this may change as the latter experiences a potential second wave of Covid-19 cases).
Eastern Europe is another area that recruiters should monitor closely in the coming weeks. We’ve seen an uptick of contractor recruitment activity in countries such as Ukraine, Slovenia, Lithuania and Romania as travel restrictions are eased and companies in these destinations seek to get back to ‘business as usual’ activities where they can.
Remote working trend continues
While the lifting of travel bans is a welcome move for those staffing firms trying to place contractors overseas or get individuals on-location for up-coming assignments, the possibility that restrictions will be re-enforced is very real. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that we’ve seen a continuing trend of end-hirers changing the way that contractors work to best adapt to the crisis. As I mentioned in my last update, we’ve seen an increase in the number of professionals working remotely from their home country while they are unable to travel to their destination of work, and we expect this to continue on a short-term basis at least. As fewer expats are able to relocate, there’s also been an uptick in the number of local nationals being hired to support projects, where skills are available in country at least. This is certainly something that will continue for the immediate future, but there are still some professionals that simply aren’t available in country for some destinations, so this move to local over expat certainly won’t be sustainable in the long term.
What the future holds is uncertain to say the least, but the signs are generally looking better for the world of international contractor recruitment. As a greater sense of security returns to some economies worldwide and freedom of movement begins again, we certainly expect to see more demand for expats to support projects where in-country skills are in short supply. The challenge for agencies, though, lies in ensuring they are set up and ready to meet the growing demand compliantly, no matter where in the world it’s coming from.