For workers on the local market, the offers of foreign employers may represent opportunities to acquire high-quality jobs and earn pretty competitive wages. On the other hand, telemigration creates competitive pressure from abroad
While the most common association when mentioning outflows of workers from Serbia is their actual physical migration, the coronavirus pandemic led to the growth of a new form of “emigration” among domestic workers. This is virtual emigration, or remote work for foreign employers not registered in our country. In such an employment relationship, the worker only “crosses” national borders virtually, without leaving their country of residence, and performs a job for a foreign employer remotely, using modern technologies. However, it isn’t entirely possible to speak unambiguously about positive or negative effects of this form of work. The answer depends on the point of view taken in observing the telemigration process. For workers on the local market, the offers of foreign employers may represent opportunities to acquire high-quality jobs and earn pretty competitive wages. Moreover, online workers spend income generated from their work in the community where they live, thereby also providing the local community with benefits from virtual migration. In a broader framework, telemigration also acts as market remediation, because surplus labour from the domestic market is employed and the unemployment rate is thus reduced.
For local Serbian companies, and even for foreign companies registered in Serbia, telemigration generates competitive pressure from abroad that they aren’t always ready to handle
On the other hand, for local Serbian companies, and even for foreign companies registered in Serbia, telemigration generates competitive pressure from abroad. Simply put, foreign employers that are not registered in Serbia usurp human capital from the local market. However, telemigration doesn’t only open a one-way road for the virtual export of workers, but rather also creates opportunities for the greater engagement of online workers in high-quality jobs on the local market. There are already existing individual examples demonstrating the practise of domestic IT companies hiring online workers for sophisticated jobs, as a consequence of the lack of skilled workers available on the domestic market.
One significant challenge of virtual migration for the labour market is ensuring that online workers are able to realise their labour rights. A contract defining relations between workers from the domestic market and a foreign employer is an obligatory contract that stipulates basic provisions, such as the level of wages and number of working hours, while other labour rights are left out and, as such, their relationship can’t actually be defined as legal labour in the scope of Serbia’s legal system. The absence of labour legislation provisions also complicates the issue of taxation, with ways of servicing tax obligations also left unclear. Telemigration has already become our “new normal”, where alongside high-quality and well-paid jobs, concern must also exist for the labour rights and increased social security of the growing numbers of virtual migrants.