Cryptocurrency trading has some surprising side effects. And the brain drain is just one of them

Stories of self-made crypto millionaires create irresistible allure, but it’s an industry fraught with risk.

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When 31-year-old marketing professional Tale Anastasov first heard how much money could be made mining cryptocurrency, it sounded almost too good to be true. But when his friend sold his apartment and bought dozens of crypto mining rigs in 2020, Anastasov decided to get into it.

“I purchased two crypto mining rigs for €3,000 each, hoping that this investment could soon earn me a passive income of around €500 per month. I was mining Ethereum, which at the time had a price of around €300,” Anastasov tells ZDNet.

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After buying the mining rigs in October 2020, over the following months the price of Ethereum almost doubled.

“In December, the price of Ethereum rose to €600, and already in January 2021 it was over €1,600. In April, my investment had already paid off. Then I invested again and spent about 15 €000 across four mining rigs,” says Anastasov.

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Originally from the small town of Veles in North Macedonia, Anastasov now lives in Skopje, the country’s capital. For a country where the average salary is just under €500 per month, many young Macedonians – like Anastasov – see the world of crypto as an opportunity to earn a lot more money than they would get from a job. regular full time.

Others, like Skopje-based fitness trainer Stefan Angelovski, even quit their jobs to trade cryptocurrency full-time. Tired of accepting an underpaid job, Angelovski, 34, has been working as a crypto trader for a few years. Every morning, he wakes up and logs into the crypto stock market through apps like Binance or Coinbase to see what’s going on.

“Crypto trading is what I do all day, every day,” he told ZDNet. Angelovski says he hasn’t had much success over the past year, but says he now makes enough money from crypto trading to keep him from needing a job at full-time.

Just like the rest of the world, the crypto craze is sweeping the Balkans. Serbia, for example, is one of the few countries to have introduced cryptocurrency regulations, passing laws in June last year that recognize them as virtual assets that can be bought, sold, transferred and traded. .

More importantly, they can be taxed. In Serbia, income generated from cryptocurrency trading is considered capital gains and taxed at 15%.

Elsewhere in the region, stores and retail chains are beginning to accept cryptocurrency payments. Croatia’s largest retail chain, Konzum, is one of the first to introduce it, seeking to appeal to young, tech-savvy consumers and marking something of a next step in contactless payment methods.

“Although this payment method is still in its infancy in Croatia, we record cryptocurrency payments almost daily in our Konzum online store,” a Konzum spokesperson told ZDNet. It could also help attract new employees interested in working with new technologies.

While cryptocurrency exchanges and ATMs are becoming commonplace in the Balkans, most governments in the region still lack a clear regulatory framework to govern their use.

Bosnian entrepreneur Vedad Mesanovic believes Balkan regulators only see digital currencies as a way to aggressively tax cryptocurrency traders, as opposed to an opportunity to spur economic growth and attract entrepreneurs and investors in the region.

New regulations could help change that, he tells ZDNet, but adds that “it will take some time” before countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina can position themselves to be crypto-friendly. The state laws of these countries do not recognize cryptocurrency assets, which means people who have invested in crypto through trading or mining cannot withdraw their earnings.

Mesanovic believes that setting clear regulations could boost the adoption of new blockchain-powered payment systems and business models in the country. “This will allow Bosnia and Herzegovina to take advantage of modern technologies and opportunities to prosper economically in the years to come,” he said.

There is no doubt that cryptocurrencies are serious business. Organizations are increasingly turning to blockchain to underpin a new generation of digital payment services, and the industry can teach valuable coding, business and marketing skills.

SEE: Why should we care about cryptocurrency? The business case for a closer look

Still, today’s crypto market remains something of a Wild West, not least because the market is so volatile. Bitcoin lost almost half of its value in January after hitting record highs in November 2021, wiping hundreds of billions of dollars from the cryptocurrency market. Ethereum, Cardano and other coins have seen similar volatility.

Jobs could also be impacted. North Macedonia already suffers from a significant brain drain, with much of its highly skilled workforce emigrating abroad to live and work. According to data from the country’s latest census, more than 600,000 people have left the country in the past two decades.

The fact that young people are choosing to mine or trade cryptocurrencies rather than work threatens to strain domestic businesses and expose them to staff shortages.

“We already have a labor shortage, and that can only put an additional burden on domestic companies,” Skopje-based economist Irena Cackova told ZDNet. “Some of the young people in the country are just not motivated to seek employment because they are earning well from crypto.”

The practice of crypto mining also has a significant environmental impact. Balkan counties are already facing a severe energy crisis, with utility prices soaring across the region. In January, Kosovo authorities banned all crypto-mining activities as part of emergency measures introduced to ease the country’s energy emergency. Arvin Kamberi, Vice President of the Serbian Bitcoin Association, describes the energy impact of crypto mining as “a huge threat to e-waste.”

These developments could force authorities to crack down harder on cryptocurrency miners and traders, as examples in China and elsewhere have demonstrated.

Despite the risks, Angelovski remains unfazed. “My goal is to make enough money to earn interest,” he says. “Then I can be more relaxed about my trading.”

About Eleanor Blackburn

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