Can Taiwan Be the Remote Work Capital of Asia?

Can Taiwan Be the Remote Work Capital of Asia?
Photo Credit: Shutterstock 
What you need to know

The ranks of digital nomads are set to expand. Despite some barriers, Taiwan is in a good position to attract these workers.

Working from home may become a permanent reality. A slew of global technology firms have announced plans to allow at least a part of their workforce to continue to work from home indefinitely. Around 30 percent of the entire United States workforce will be working from home at least part-time by the end of 2021. The same trend is observable in Asia, where major IT firms including Fujitsu, NEC, and Naver, have put in place their long-term home-office plan for employees.

Digital workers are fleeing their downtown homes near corporate offices for cheaper, nature-abundant, and socially distanced residences in the suburbs and more rural areas. In the U.S., U.K., and Canada, interest and growth in suburban properties has outstripped those in city centers in recent months. On the other side of the Pacific, Japanese workers are increasingly showing interest in residing outside the Greater Tokyo region. 

The ranks of “digital nomads,” those working from wherever they have a quiet environment and good internet connections, are set to expand. Fears of coronavirus will drive more people away from crowded cities where social distance cannot be easily maintained, to locales and jurisdictions where local governments and healthcare institutions have proven capable of suppressing epidemics immediately after they break out.

Taipei, Taiwan, 20 July 2019: Skyline of taipei city in downtown Taipei. Taipei101 building during sunset twilight, the highest buiding in Taiwan
Photo Credit: Shutterstock 

In Asia, as government-to-government talks arise of instituting “travel bubbles” among countries with low infection rates, digital nomads are no longer restricted to searching for new residences domestically. In particular, remote workers in Asia can select from a list of destinations around the region many of which are already highly frequented and rated by existing digital nomads for their low costs and relaxed lifestyle.

Taiwan may be one of the potential winners of attracting the new remote workers. Geographically close to business hubs and boasting affordable costs of living, Taiwan is suited to be a home base for many white-collar professionals seeking a place to work without breaking the bank.

Of the many considerations in mind for digital nomads, fast and affordable internet access is perhaps paramount. On internet speed, the latest ranking shows that for both mobile and fixed broadband connection, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, China, and Taiwan all place in the global top 20. 

In terms of price, China, as well as South and Southeast Asian states, notably Vietnam and India, topped the list of the cheapest broadband and mobile internet. However, even on cost, Taiwan emerges as much more affordable than its peers with comparable speeds in Singapore and South Korea.

Moreover, Taiwan’s cost of living is lower than other destinations with similarly good internet infrastructure. The latest cost of the living index shows Taipei and Kaohsiung having both lower rent costs than Bangkok and Manila. Yet, in the safe city rankings, Taipei only trails its peers in Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. In all variables, and especially health and digital security, two important markers for remote workers, Taipei scored far above cities across China, as well as South and Southeast Asia.

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Of course, for remote workers to make the move to Taiwan is not without practical challenges. The 2018 ranking of average expatriate salaries put Taiwan below most Asian economies. Moreover, Taiwan lacks a residential visa for foreigners not working for a Taiwan-based employer, making it difficult to reside in the country while working for a foreign firm. Finally, English isn't commonly used in everyday life, both in the spoken and written forms, making communication difficult for those who are not well-versed in local tongues. These structural obstacles for remote workers in Taiwan may not disappear in the short term.

As international borders gradually reopen and working from home becomes more normal, many willing to move may consider Taiwan a suitable destination for remote work. Combining affordability, advanced and safe digital and physical infrastructure, as well as a relatively welcoming attitude toward expatriates, Taiwan averages out to be the best value for those seeking to work abroad without digital hiccups and significant expenses. To stimulate a post-Covid economic recovery, it would be wise for Taiwan to market itself as a destination for digital nomads, using ample data to support its claim for the remote working capital of Asia.


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TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty, Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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