As technology advances, jobs are changing, and more and more people are deciding to eschew the traditional 9-5 job in favor of the digital nomad lifestyle—one that affords an individual incomparable freedom including the option to live anywhere in the world and work any time that strikes their fancy.
Asian countries are experiencing an influx in foreign workers, as many digital nomads have elected to move as far away from their Western homelands in favor of the East.
Thailand and Indonesia in particular, have some of the highest populations of digital nomads in the world. Specifically, Canggu, a city in Bali—an Indonesian island, is currently ranked as the number one destination for digital nomads in the world.
Part of the reason so many digital nomads are flocking to this island known for its volcanic mountains, sandy beaches, iconic rice paddies, and vibrant coral reefs is because of the low cost of living and the fast internet speeds.
On average, you can get a private villa with access to a swimming pool, rent a scooter to get around and eat out for every meal for just $1,500 USD a month.
However, while many westerners can essentially live like kings, the locals aren’t feeling the wealth nearly as much.
According to a report from 2017, the top one percent of the population controls nearly half—49 percent—of the wealth.
Even more alarming, nearly one in 10 people—eight percent of the population—are living in extreme poverty—earning $1.90 USD per day, and 36 percent of the population is living in moderate poverty—earning less than $3.10 USD per day.
As more and more digital nomads are choosing to set up shop in Bali, the way the locals sustain themselves are changing.
Rice paddies (which are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars) and farmlands are being transformed into hotels, cafes, and restaurants.
The wealthy elite of Bali are thriving, but the workers are struggling.
Part of the reason so many workers are living paycheck to paycheck is because there is no single minimum wage in Bali. Rather, each district sets its minimum wage which is dependent on the region’s GDP.
In Canggu, the minimum wage is approximately 2.5 million rupiahs per month, which is less than $180 USD. This means the people earning minimum wage can afford to pay for food and shelter—and that’s it.
Who’s to Blame?
Part of the reason for this is a lot of the money digital nomads are making isn’t going back into the country; many people are living on short-term or travel visas, which means they aren’t paying taxes to the Indonesian government—rather, they pay taxes to the government of the country they are originally from (if they pay taxes at all).
However, it’s a much more nuanced issue than that. For example, while digital nomads might not pay taxes, they’re still contributing to the Indonesian economy by purchasing food, lodging, and access to the internet.