Philippines Dial M for Manila

The Philippines is the world’s leading provider of offshore call centre services. Since gaining independence in 1946, the former Spanish and American colony, has looked outside its island borders for most of its economic drivers.

According to Rob O’Malley, UK MD of Philippine call centre service-provider Cyber City, the country’s economy once depended almost entirely on ex-patriots in far-off lands. But the call centre industry has allowed large parts of its population to work for foreign companies while staying at home. Aside from BPO and call centres, says O’Malley, “the Philippines has little else” for skilled workers.

Luckily, then, the country boasts 45 million English speakers – almost half the population of the entire country and half the number of English speakers in India, a country with over ten times the population.

So significant is the call centre industry to the Philippine economy that when US bank Washington Mutual opened a 500-seat facility there in 2007, the ribbon was cut by the president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

But all is not necessarily well with this call centre paradise. The US State Department advises its citizens not to travel to the region surrounding Davoa City in the south of the country, which has become notorious for kidnap gangs and terrorist activity.

Despite the risks, Cyber City has decided to base some of its call centre facilities in the area, in order to combat escalating attrition and wages in the capital Manila.

O’Malley argues that understanding and managing political risk is a key part of outsourcing offshore. “Almost all offshore locations are going to pose a greater risk than the UK,” he says. “You have to make a judgement call.”

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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