Estonia is eager for international tech talent
Estonia never ceases to amaze me with its forward-thinking government and disruptive digital and tech initiatives – and this little country of 1.3 million has just taken yet another leap forward.
New legislation has recently come into force that will reward local companies with support of up to €2,000 for every foreign employee they hire in the tech, digital and creative sectors.
The idea behind the newly-passed bill is to support Estonian companies with all the extra costs and complications that come with recruiting foreign talent.
This, by extension, will help tackle the ambitious country's specialist skills shortage.
Karoli Hindriks is the co-founder and chief executive of international tech talent platform Jobbatical, has been working closely with the Estonian government to push this legislation forward.
As anti-immigration sentiment continues to spread globally, Hindriks says both Estonia and Jobbatical are heading in the opposite direction.
"I think it's a very courageous move – and it's very much opposing what we’re seeing in the UK and Europe with Brexit and in the US right now," she said. "Here, we’re actually paying companies to hire skilled foreigners.
"Estonia is a small country but a very ambitious country – there's a skills shortage in every country and it’s happening everywhere, but the question is: what are governments doing about it?"
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Hindriks told me that Jobbatical, which works with companies across 50 countries and boasts 25 nationalities in its workforce, has recently hired a candidate from Nigeria.
Amazingly, it took less than two weeks and cost less than $200 to get all the work permits.
Hindriks says she envisions a world where passports and borders "don't matter" and she's confident that the way countries manage immigration will change.
But the entrepreneur is under no illusions of the challenges ahead.
"I believe there will be a huge shift in immigration and barriers," Hindriks says. "What we’ll be seeing more and more is that the passport of a person won’t really matter anymore and it won’t be a barrier anymore."
Estonia's new initiative is laudable - but the country's not planning to stop there.
With help from Jobbatical, there are plans in place to launch the first visa for 'digital nomads' in early 2019, which will allow people who use digital technologies to work remotely while travelling.
"We talk a lot about the 'war of talent' or the talent shortage but I think in many countries the policymakers have still not realised their responsibility in that 'battle'," she says.
"I do hope that initiatives like what Estonia has boldly taken on right now will inspire other countries to start thinking in the same way."