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Futurology - Workers Without Borders

The world is now more connected than ever before, both physically and digitally. Connected by rail, road, gas, electricity, oil pipelines, flight paths, internet cables and shipping lanes.

From a history of tribal divisions and the formal borders declared post WW2, the world is now being dismantled, at least from a communications, accessibility and connectivity perspective.

We live in a world that is more connected and more mobile, people are able to work anywhere, anytime with anyone, which poses an enormous challenge to the value of the built environment. If there is a choice of where to work, rest and play – where will people choose?

The world has witnessed much of the manufacturing industry relocate to cheaper labour sources globally over the past 30 years. Given the swift increase in connectivity and technology since, it can be fairly concluded that ‘knowledge work’ will follow the same path.


Image source: Parag Khanna

The challenge posed for the current first world is that people in the second and third world are able to undercut the pricing of ‘knowledge work’ due to lower costs of living and wages. This has been witnessed somewhat in the offshoring of call centres in recent years.     

What does this mean for cities, regions and suburbs today that house these knowledge workers? How do they remain competitive?

The competition for knowledge workers has moved from a national focus to a regional focus and can be expected to become increasingly global. As much as workers can be trained and coached, it is cheaper to “borrow” them, either temporarily or permanently from other countries. Competition is fierce. Taxation, lifestyle, wealth, education, safety, cost of living and proximity will all play a part in the competition for talent globally.

A homogenisation of real estate prices globally could happen. The precise location will matter less as lifestyle, time zone and access to amenities increase in importance, and the current concept of proximity to work driving prices may start to fade.

To learn how to be what’s next in a connected world, contact Tony Crabb, National Director, Research.

Read more of Cushman & Wakefield’s Futurology series,

click here.