The rise of digital nomads: How Filipinos are adapting to the evolving labor market
Situated on the eastern rim of the Asiatic Mediterranean, the Philippines straddles the typhoon belt and sits close to the Pacific Ring of Fire, where intense seismic activities and volcanic eruptions often occur. But while the country of nearly 114 million people has gotten used to these circumstances, nothing prepared the developing nation for the crisis that hit in 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only impacted the local economy following the closing of borders but also opened a can of worms, exposing problems in various sectors, particularly the country’s healthcare system, left unattended for years.
The global health crisis led to the layoffs of thousands of workers from different industries, with the airline and tourism sectors taking the most damage. While this was considered one of the Philippines’ darkest periods, with over 4 million confirmed cases and 66,661 people dying from the disease, it showcased the importance of technology and how it can rebuild the country’s stricken economy and society.
The nationwide lockdown that began in March 2020 had many rely heavily on technology for communication and entertainment. This led to the introduction of emerging technologies to the greater masses despite being around pre-pandemic.
Digital currencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) were first to take off in the Philippines in terms of popularity and usage, thanks to the local gaming community that was quick to explore the world of Web3 gaming. Play-to-earn (P2E) games have also become a source of fun for most and a means to earn additional income as the nation slowly recuperates from the economic implications of COVID-19.
From these experiences, the real value of Bitcoin and blockchain technology for developing countries, such as the Philippines, has been realized. This is seen in the rising number of Filipinos using digital currencies to transact online, which opens the pathway to help support the drive toward a cashless society, and the national government’s push to streamline services on-chain.
The challenges that lie ahead
It took the Philippines over two years before normalcy was restored, with businesses opening up and companies requiring workers to return to workplaces, with some on a hybrid set-up. While this paints a picture of the gradual revival of the local economy, the impacts of COVID-19 permanently affected the majority of the Filipino workforce, who realized that remote work has been greatly beneficial for them.
Workers clamoring for businesses to have an option of working from home claimed that remote work had restored balance to their lives. However, the idea did not sit well with some companies, who argued that working onsite promotes productivity and greater collaboration as compared to working from home.
Fighting back, some workers who no longer wished to be so-called corporate slaves resigned and found solace in jobs offering a permanent work-from-home setup. This transition reshaped the Philippines’ labor market, with many turning into digital nomads.
The transition isn’t all that surprising considering the Philippines’ tech-savvy population, with nearly 70 million smartphone users by the end of 2022.
But while the labor sector has slowly adjusted to this change, it didn’t come easy for digital nomads, who had to face hurdles along the way as the Philippines is still in the midst of building itself into a hub for remote workers.
Common challenges digital nomads face include unstable internet connection and the lack of a conducive environment where they can freely do their jobs remotely. Filipinos have been facing these woes for decades, and it was only when remote jobs boomed that it came to light.
This is where the Nomad Workation Retreat comes in. A five-day event in the surfing capital of the Philippines, Siargao, where digital nomads and individuals looking to build connections, craft business ideas, and know more about location independence will gather for a fun-filled week of workshops and learnings.
The event will take place on September 18-22 at General Luna and will be organized by Baybayin Hub, a co-working and co-living hub overlooking the crystal blue waters of Siargao. Now in its fourth year, the Nomad Workation Retreat serves as a platform that supports the Philippines’ ambition to become a digital nomad haven, with an aim to equip young talents, remote workers, and business-minded individuals with the right knowledge and skills to ride with the changing work landscape.
The retreat also aims to deliver the importance of technology in the midst of the country’s digital transformation and how emerging technologies could potentially benefit in spurring this initiative.