At the beginning of April 2023, the Greek parliament voted Law 5038/2023 called “Immigration Code” which aims at reforming the institutional framework for the entry and residence of citizens from third countries in Greece, focusing on highly skilled employment. Article 68 defines the requirements for digital nomads regarding the procedure and the conditions for entry and residence in Greece. As a result, foreign citizens are now able to work as self-employed freelancers or employees providing their services remotely using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to employers or clients outside Greece.
This new legislation aims at making Greece an attractive destination for digital nomads. According to a study by the “MIT Enterprise Forum”, if Greece could attract 100,000 digital nomads annually, staying on average of 6 months, the country could benefit with over €1.6 billion. This is almost equivalent to the generated income by a week’s stay of 2.5 million tourists. Going to Greece for a summer vacation is obviously not new to the international market. However, going to Greece to work remotely for businesses around the globe is something new. The lifestyle, the nice weather, a cultural heritage to visit, the relatively low crime rates, and the affordability compared to many of the Northern EU countries, represent some important advantages to attract digital nomads.
Regional economies could also significantly benefit from remote workers. The direct effects on the economy could be traced through the additional consumption and the indirect, at least, taxation (i.e VAT for goods and services delivered locally). Moreover, an untapped opportunity is emerging for agglomeration economies’ advantages and innovation spillovers. Digital nomads are usually highly skilled personnel, especially in the ICT field, with innovative ideas and digital expertise. Creating a critical mass of such experts in a small area could induce substantial technological and knowledge spillovers, leading to higher local labour productivity, digitalization, and innovation, increasing regional sustainable development.
An example is the island of Rhodes, the largest island of the Dodecanese complex. The municipal authorities have already introduced several initiatives for attracting digital nomads worldwide. A non-profit organisation, “Digital Nomads Observatory”, is located on the island and, in cooperation with the local authorities, aims to foster the local environment concerning promoting Rhodes as an ideal destination for digital nomads. Their collaboration is based on, among others, preparing an integrated attraction plan for digital nomads, creating partnerships with other organisations and cities in Greece and abroad, interfacing with the ecosystem of startup companies and educating the local business community.
Although establishing the legal regime regarding digital nomads is a significant step in fostering an attractive environment for remote workers, several issues should be further addressed. Digitalisation and state-of-the-art ICT facilities are critical for this target group. In the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) 2022, Greece is in 25th place among EU Member States. In the connectivity dimension, Greece lags significantly behind the rest of the EU (ranks 22nd). Fixed Very High Capacity Networks coverage expanded to 20%, though the average of EU was equal to 70%. But digital infrastructure is improving and soon this will not act as a potential obstacle for workers. Actually, some of the locals are already doing it, building on the knowledge and the infrastructure that was created during the covid crisis. Therefore, ensuring the newly published legislation’s smooth implementation and simplifying any additional procedures is necessary.
All in all, digital nomadism could significantly contribute to Greece’s economy and regional development. The adoption of digital nomad visa is a significant step towards this direction since local characteristics are already attractive to foreigners. Though, ensuring seamless implementation, decreasing the administrative burden and facilitating a fostering digital environment are considered key to effectively make Greece appealing to digital remote workforce.