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Remote working – a big opportunity for post-Covid Barcelona, according to internationals

Remote working – a big opportunity for post-Covid Barcelona, according to internationals

Photography: Jordi Bernadó

One of the consequences of the digital acceleration Barcelona has seen during the pandemic, is an increase in remote working, which appears to be here to stay. 

Barcelona has the opportunity for talent working remotely to choose it as a city from which to work, start a business or invest. This is the result of the 5th edition of the International Talent Monitor which, in collaboration with Banco Sabadell, seeks to better understand the needs and challenges of international talent living and working in Barcelona.

How do they rate Barcelona's international talent?

Around 80% of survey respondents indicated that Barcelona was a very attractive base for international talent who want to work remotely. This opportunity corresponds to the perception of the quality of life offered by the city (5,6/7), as well as its excellent international connectivity (6,1/7) and its cultural offering (5,8/7), according to respondents. Moreover, Barcelona is seen as a global cosmopolitan city (5,7/7) with the ease of attracting international talent considered to be satisfactory (5/7). The presence of an international community is also seen as positive (5.8/7).

What do they think are the city's challenges? 

The international talent highlighted several challenges, some old, some new – which, unless addressed urgently, could impact on the city’s global competitiveness. These include dissatisfaction with administrative processes (2,9/7), lack of digitalization (3,7/7), uncompetitive salaries (3,1/7), high property prices (3,2) and taxation levels. Dissatisfaction with tax is considered as a major barrier for attracting talent and satisfaction levels have declined for wealth tax (3,4 in 2021 and 3,5 in 2019) and income tax (3,6 in 2021 and 3,8 in 2019) and corporate tax (3.7 in 2021 and 3.8 in 2019).

Concerns over the political situation in Barcelona remained stable, although it is still ranked as the lowest of the bottom indicators – at 2,6/7. Furthermore, it is the second reason given by internationals for leaving the city (17%), after accepting a career growth opportunity (24%). 

Satisfaction with the use of English in Barcelona has decreased slightly (4,2/7 in 2021 and 4,4/7 in 2019), and although it is still above the neutral line of satisfaction, focus groups have specifically identified a lack of English as a barrier in public services, notably in the public health system during Covid-19. Interestingly, 80% of the respondents don’t consider Catalan as a barrier for integration. As in 2019, they consider the language a challenge they can live with and accept.  

Resilience of the public health system and satisfaction with the way in which pandemic was handled

One of the big strengths identified in the previous reports, is the high level of satisfactions among internationals with the health system, both public (5,1/7) and private (5,5/7). This year is no exception and moreover, satisfaction with the way in which the health crisis was handled was rated as above neutral at (4,7/7). The resilience of the health sector in comparison with other European cities has emerged as one of Barcelona’s biggest strengths.

Business environment – an opportunity, provided administrative and legal processes improve 

This year’s report shows an increase in general positivity towards investing and doing business in Barcelona. (4.3/7 in 2021 and 3,9/7 in 2019, even though the satisfaction levels for creating a business have dropped slightly (3,9 in 2021 and 4,1 in 2019). This decline, as borne out by evidence in focus groups, particularly relates to frustration with bureaucracy and regulations. Dissatisfaction with the legal system, particularly when it comes to launching a business, has also dropped (3,3 in 2021 and 3,7 in 2019), which is seen as a stumbling block across sectors, including sustainable tourism and mobility.

Who has answered the survey? 

With 1.042 survey respondents completing 88 questions divided into 7 categories, and an average of 41 minutes spent per survey, as well as 64 participants of 8 focus groups and 121 companies, research centers, cultural institutions and chambers of commerce helping to distribute the survey, the International Talent Monitor is an effective measure of the pulse (trends and perceptions) of one of the city’s most important groups – its international talent. 

The profile of those surveyed shows that Barcelona stands out as a technological and entrepreneurial city, with a great capacity to attract young technological talent and highly qualified people. Thus, most of those surveyed work in the technology sector (20%) and have a master's degree or a doctorate (73%). 72% are European and 32% have lived in the city for more than 10 years.  

Regarding the reasons for leaving the city, the opportunity for professional growth prevails (24%), the political situation (17%) and a new job in another city (14%).%, although the largest increase is for tax dissatisfaction, which rises from 5% in 2019 to 8% this year as a reason for leaving the city. 

Barcelona Global's proposals based on the results: 

  1. Promote tax improvements for international talent and companies. 
  2. Promote the digitalization of landing processes and online information. 
  3. Launch a campaign to promote Barcelona as a destination for international talent. 
  4. Work on an affordable international school for children from international families. 
  5. Promote a metropolitan housing policy. 
  6. Internationalisation of higher education. 
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