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Filipinos unfazed by U.S. aiming to bring back jobs

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MANILA, Philippines >> Call center operators in the Philippines who serve mostly U.S. clients on Wednesday shrugged off President Barack Obama’s initiative to bring outsourced jobs back home.

The Business Processing Association of the Philippines that groups 250 companies said that outsourcing has allowed U.S. companies to survive the global financial crunch by lowering costs and to expand — thereby creating more jobs for Americans.

The Philippines is the world’s top supplier of call center operators and is second to India in non-voice services such as accounting, engineering and medical billing. The U.S. accounts for 70 percent of the Philippines’ business outsourcing market.

In his State of the Union address, Obama urged American businesses to bring jobs back to the U.S. Last week, he said he wants to eliminate tax breaks for companies that outsource.

Martin Crisostomo, BPAP spokesman, said outsourcing is inseparable from globalization and a business model that helps companies cut costs.

He said industry members are monitoring developments in the U.S. including proposed legislation in the U.S. Congress to discourage outsourcing jobs, but believes market forces will dictate the industry’s future.

"At the end, it will not be politics but it will be the bottomline," Crisostomo said.

He pointed out that last quarter employment figures in the U.S. had improved even with outsourcing.

Still, Philippine companies will strengthen efforts to get clients other than Americans.

They include English-speaking countries like Britain, which now accounts for 10 percent of the business process outsourcing industry in the Philippines, and Australia, which accounts for 7 percent of the Philippine call-center market.

Marketing efforts for Philippine-based companies will also be increased in Western Europe, particularly for non-voice services like accounting, data encoding, transcription, engineering design, animation and game development.

Martin Conboy, editor of the Australian-based outsourcing news service "The Sauce" and director of FooBoo, an outsourcing company, said that the U.S. government’s offer of incentives against offshoring "completely misses the point" and only masks "an inefficient labor market."

"If companies can access talented and less expensive labor in somewhere like the Philippines, why would a business pay more for the same thing in their own country?" he said in an email.

The Philippines has an English-speaking work force and employs some 600,000 workers in the business process outsourcing industry.

BPAP chairman Alfredo Ayala has said that the Philippines hopes to raise the number of outsourcing workers to 1.3 million by 2016 and revenues to $25 billion from around $11 billion in 2011.


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