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ECONOMY | 21-07-2022 14:41

Crypto crash be damned, some workers still choose digital pay

Despite crypto instability, being paid in digital currency is the preference of many remote workers in Argentina, Latin America and the rest of the world.

Even though crypto winter has settled in, remote workers in Latin America and elsewhere still want digital currency in return for their labour.

About 5% of all payments accepted by remote workers were taken in crypto in the first six months of the year, up from 2% in the last six months of 2021, according to more than 100,000 worker contracts analysed by Deel, which helps companies hire and pay people in more than 150 countries. More than two-thirds of the crypto withdrawals happened in Latin America.

Remote workers’ increased demand for getting paid in cryptoassets might surprise some, given the $2 trillion crash that has wiped out some of the industry’s biggest names and exposed hundreds of thousands of individual investors to steep losses. But cryptocurrencies have proven to be a lifeline in unstable Latin American economies like Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. 

In Argentina – one of the most popular locations for remote workers – it’s common to pay them in crypto to circumvent exchange controls and to protect them from soaring inflation. Argentina has a higher proportion of workers getting paid in cryptocurrency than anywhere else, according to Deel. But the collapse of so-called stablecoins has inflicted heavy losses on Argentinians who held them instead of converting them into pesos.

In a country with recurring currency crises and inflation running around 60% annually, two-thirds of Argentinians who invest in crypto say they do so to protect their savings, according to a study by Buenos Aires-based Wunderman Thompson.

Elsewhere, about one-fourth of the withdrawals came in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Deel found. Bitcoin accounted for just under half of all crypto payments globally, down from two-thirds in the back half of last year. Deel’s data set is weighted toward younger workers in technology and finance who may be more enthused about crypto. Three out of four Deel contracts are with workers under the age of 35.

In North America – where several high-profile football players as well as the mayors of New York City and Miami have taken paychecks in Bitcoin – the overall share of crypto withdraws was just 7%, up slightly from last year, Deel found. The volatility of cryptocurrencies means some workers risk getting charged taxes based on payments that have subsequently dropped in value.

Deel’s salary report also found that remote workers in Italy, whose government is collapsing, enjoyed the biggest average salary increase. Workers there saw a 175% hike in pay, followed by Brazil, India and Nigeria. The top cities overall for remote workers, based on the amount of staff hired there, were London, Toronto and Buenos Aires.

by Bloomberg / Matthew Boyle

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