The BPO industry here has been booming since the global recession in 2008 caused a large number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to lose their jobs, leading to a returning influx of people seeking work. The government undertook various initiatives to reintegrate them into the Philippine workforce, which has put us on the map in terms of where we are today in the BPO industry.
Multinational companies now find it significantly easier to consolidate several centers throughout the region to a single premises here in Manila, Cebu, or any of the other 21 cities here where BPOs are operating. Following recent integration by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines could well be seeing an increase in the already burgeoning ITBPO industry, although some are speculating that we lack adequate language skills to handle such an increase.
Mr. Jomari Mercado, President of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP), says that “the opportunity is there from an attractiveness perspective – in terms of location – but the challenge is we don’t have the language capabilities.” Mr. Mercado went on to say that the integration will make it easier to bring in foreign nationals with specific language skills to fill in any missing pieces of the puzzle with regards to providing client services in the required languages, specifically mentioning bringing in Thai and Vietnamese speakers.
The potential increase will also provide additional opportunities to global companies wishing to set up their own call center operations on Philippine shores, providing a significant boost to both employment rates and the local economy as a whole. The steady appreciation of the peso, however, means that the Philippine workforce is no longer as competitive as it once was in terms of costs when compared to other regional players. But, there is certainly considerable light at the end of the tunnel with the additional capabilities to compete that are presented via ASEAN integration.
As of today, markets that are most commonly serviced by Philippine-based call centers are Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, employing as many as 1.2 million Filipino workers by the end of 2015 and creating an estimated 120,000 new jobs annually up to 2018.