The boom of digital nomads

Every Wednesday night the community of digital nomads gathers in a bar in the center of Barcelona.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
19 August 2023 Saturday 11:12
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The boom of digital nomads

Every Wednesday night the community of digital nomads gathers in a bar in the center of Barcelona. Foreign professionals who work remotely for foreign companies share the experience of living in the city for a few months or, at most, a couple of years.

“Does anyone have a room to rent for the end of this year? Who signs up for a beach volleyball tournament in Barceloneta? Shall we go out partying next Saturday?". These are some of their major concerns, as can be seen from the WhatsApp and Facebook groups through which they are organized.

The community has been around for more than five years, but sevamida has grown exponentially since the pandemic restrictions were lifted. There are no official data from the administrations, but the Nomadlist portal, which is used as a reference on a global scale, numbers 9,600 nomads in the city today. This means eight times more than two years ago, when there were barely 1,200. Barcelona, ​​together with Madrid, Valencia, Seville and, above all, the Canary Islands and Mallorca, are the most attractive destinations in Spain.

On a global scale, the number of digital nomads has tripled in the last three years and exceeds 35 million workers, according to several portals. Nomads are mainly citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Canada or Germany. They work mainly in the technology, creativity or education sector and in 83% of cases they are self-employed, both freelance and business owners, according to Statista. Among their favorite destinations, Southeast Asian cities (Bangkok, Bali) and European cities such as Lisbon or Berlin stand out in the first positions. Barcelona occupies the 81st position in the ranking, while Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Tenerife are among the top 30.

The popularity of telework after the pandemic and the facilities that many states have introduced to attract these professionals explain the exponential growth experienced in recent years.

According to a report by Gitnux consultancy, 45 countries have created visas for digital nomads. Among these states, Spain, which together with Portugal, Germany or Greece considers it positive to attract this type of workers, since its socio-economic impact is beneficial even if it is only for a few months. "They bring talent to the country and promote consumption and the dynamism of the Spanish economy", believes lawyer Leonardo Cárdenas, of the AGM law firm, who advises people from the group. Indeed, digital nomads are highly skilled workers with a university degree and a salary that exceeds $50,000 in 70% of cases, according to Statista.

When two years ago they began to conquer bars, co-working spaces and Airbnb in various Spanish places, one of the concerns that appeared in the country was their legal and fiscal situation. If they were non-EU citizens they could spend three months on a tourist visa (which does not allow work) or they had to apply for a long-term residence permit. But since the end of last year, his figure has enjoyed a status of its own. Through the so-called Startup Law, the Government has created a visa for non-EU citizens (EU citizens have freedom of movement and establishment) valid for a period of 4 years. In addition, a series of tax incentives have also been approved, among which the fixed personal income tax rate of 24% for annual salaries of 55,000 to 600,000 euros stands out, a more advantageous situation than that of Spanish residents , whose rate is 45% (or higher) from 60,000 euros of salary. "So far we see that the regulations have had a positive impact. There are no cases of fraud, although it is also true that it is difficult to control it", points out Cárdenas.

Despite the facilities, Barcelona City Council is critical of this group. According to a municipal report, this "privileged floating population" favors "the gentrification process of historic centers and increases tensions in the housing market", it warns.