- Bright lights dim on big cities: Spain tops list as home-workers seek quality of life-
A GROWING trend towards working from home triggered almost by default in early 2020 means the pull of big, global cities is slackening off but those which the world's employees remain attracted to are largely in Spain.
The world's largest metropolitan zones no longer hold so much attraction, according to Bloomberg (Photo: Pexels/Ben Cheung)
The 'new roaring twenties' was never supposed to start off like this – a pandemic confining the public to their homes on every continent, with businesses facing the choice of either shutting down, at least partially, and temporarily laying off their staff, or setting them up with the facilities to work from their homes.
Those companies where the nature of their enterprise allowed them to do so opted overwhelmingly for remote working; some employees found they hated it and missed the camaraderie and structure of an office, whilst others took to it like a duck to water and were very reluctant to return to the daily commute when their firms were able to.
Some firms have not been able to, or decided not to; in other cases, employees found they were more productive and less stressed working from home and got their boss' agreements to carry on in the same vein.
This change in the daily grind means that for previously office-based staff, the location of where they live has suddenly become a choice rather than a necessity, according to Bloomberg.
It published the global InterNations survey after interviewing over 15,000 people of 173 different nationalities, and discovered that the booming metropolitan sprawls that once spelled excitement, a dynamic and modern lifestyle and unlimited career opportunities are now starting to feel a bit tired.
Spain triumphs over planet's largest metropolitan zones Hong Kong, Paris, Rome, London, New York, São Paulo, Tokyo, Dubai and other mega-cities with their bright lights and never-sleeping culture are falling from favour, and responses from expat workers are becoming more negative and disillusioned.
They now mostly say they want to live somewhere 'comfortable, relatively stress-free, offering a good work-life balance, affordable property, where they feel safer and face fewer risks to their health', Bloomberg reveals.
Valencia is the top choice of city to live in among expats of 173 nationalities surveyed
And it turns out that InterNations, an expat network with its headquarters in Munich, Germany and with around four million members, found home-workers are keener to live in Spain than almost anywhere else, especially if they have to be based in a large city.
Four Spanish cities have made it into their top 10 choices – of the 15,000 interviewed, the number one large urban location was Valencia, on Spain's Mediterranean coast.
In fact, the top two were in the same region – about two hours south of Valencia and also in the Comunidad Valenciana, the city of Alicante came second.
The Comunidad Valenciana has three provincial capital cities – the third one is Castellón, but is much smaller and less 'metropolitan' than Valencia, home to around 770,000 residents, and Alicante, and did not make the shortlist.
Málaga, the biggest city on the Costa del Sol, came in sixth out of the 10 favourites, and Madrid came ninth.
Lisbon, the Portuguese capital – which also strikes first-time visitors as very 'un-citylike' and somehow retains a small, local feel about it – also made it into the top 10.
Out of a total of 66 reviewed, some of the world's largest metropolitan areas did, in fact, squeeze into the first 10, showing they still do have something to offer even to workers who are now able to choose to live elsewhere without compromising their jobs: Panamá City, Buenos Aires, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Abu Dhabi, and Singapore did not completely lose their appeal.
Madrid scores highly with non-Spaniards, but Spanish workers want peace and quiet. Curiously, though, Madrid scored far better among non-Spaniards and non-Spanish residents than it did among people for whom it is their capital city, or was when they were growing up.
This is thought to be, in part, because – according to a report in UK broadsheet The Guardian - Madrid has seen the second-greatest shrinking in job offers of all European capitals due to the pandemic; London has seen the largest reduction in vacancies
Madrid means ‘winding down’ and a slower pace of life for workers worldwide, but Spaniards would rather live somewhere quieter than their own capital city (Photo: Wikimedia Commons). These data came from the jobs website Indeed, the largest in the world, which said Madrid had seen a fall of 46% in vacancies in the past year, compared with an average reduction of 39% across the rest of Spain.
Whilst the world at large is keen on Spanish cities – perhaps considering them somewhat quieter and less stressful than much bigger metropolitan zones elsewhere on the planet – workers already living in Spain seem to be keener to get out of the hustle and bustle of the urban sprawl than ever.
And their tendency towards wanting a more comfortable, quality way of life could help 'save' what is commonly known as 'empty Spain' – remote rural parts, small villages, with residential hubs a long drive from each other, and at a considerable distance from the nearest large town or provincial capital, sometimes even hundreds of kilometres.
'Empty Spain' has long been a concern for those still living in it: Lack of jobs, public transport and modern facilities mean adults of working and child-bearing age tend to move away, reluctantly or willingly, purely to be able to 'get by', since their native mountain hamlets are simply too far to commute from and lack of schools, health centres and general activity means it is nearly impossible for them to bring up children there.
The result is that the remaining population is retired, and with each generation, gets older and older until the last inhabitant dies and they turn into ghost towns. Home-workers might be the answer to the worrying rural population decline, although local authorities in these areas have stressed it is not as simple as that: For effective home-working, small villages need good, fast internet and mobile phone coverage, and some level of school network will need to be guaranteed for those who want to have children, or who move in as a family.
Shifting big-city jobs into small villages, Hiberus Tecnología, a consultancy firm based in Aragón – one of Spain's regions that suffers most from population decline – has launched a campaign urging professionals, especially those with jobs in technology, to 'come home', citing quality of life 'away from the madding crowds' as a carrot.
To ensure it works, Hiberus kicked off 'Operation Fauno' last year – a pioneering initiative in Spain involving a gradual opening of technological 'hubs' in small villages and rural areas.
The first of these 'hubs' will be in the province of Soria, Castilla y León, towards the north of central Spain and a province affected quite dramatically by population exodus; so far, over 500 would-be remote workers have contacted Hiberus to enquire about living in the area.
Sigüenza, in the Castilla-La Mancha province of Guadalajara, north-east of Madrid, is earmarked for a ‘technology hub’ giving remote workers the facilities they need for their jobs, but in the heart of the countryside (Photo: Malaya on Panoramio via Wikimedia Commons)
“Many technology workers have found they have no option but to live in huge cities if they want to develop their careers, with the consequences that this inevitably brings: Constant commuting, high property costs, stress, and so on,” Hiberus' area manager for La Rioja, Javier Virto, says.
“We want to give them a chance to grow their careers without having to compromise on comfort and the benefits of a countryside environment.
“About 90% of enquiries we've received so far are from professionals based in Madrid and Barcelona, the majority of whom originally came from the province of Soria and had to move to the cities for their jobs, but who would really like to be able to return 'home'.“We plan to 'land' in the province of Soria before the year  is out, and then we'll start on other places.”
The next few on the list include Sigüenza, a village of just over 4,300 residents in the Castilla-La Mancha province of Guadalajara, to the north-east of Madrid and close to the provinces of Teruel (Aragón) and Castellón (Comunidad Valenciana).
And the latter, Castellón province – the most rural of the region's three, although by no means the only one with huge swathes of sparsely-populated countryside and small villages – is also earmarked for a 'Hiberus hub', along with an as-yet undecided location in the Pyrénées, which could be in the provinces of Lleida or Girona (Catalunya), Huesca (Aragón), Guipúzcoa (Basque Country), or the single-province region of Navarra.“Our aim is to create 400 job vacancies in the short term,” explains Recruitment and Talent Management leader Víctor Vidaller.