Mon | Jan 22, 2018

Nation won't lose business process outsourcing jobs - expert

Published:Tuesday | February 7, 2017 | 12:00 AMMark Titus

Western Bureau:

Dr Guna Muppuri, president of the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), says he is not perturbed by a suggestion by a New York Daily News columnist that United States (US) President Donald Trump should bring back US call centre jobs to the American homeland.

"The article is only the opinion of the columnist," said Muppuri, referring to the writer, Linda Stasi. "At this time, I am very sure the opportunities for the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector are not going to be intimidated unless the US government drops their minimum wage to US$4 per hour or is willing to pay US$12 per hour for these jobs to be retained in the mainland or territorial US."

While some of his colleagues are jittery, prominent local investor Davon Crump, who heads Global Outsourcing Solutions Limited, is of the view that Americans are unlikely to want to work for the low wages on offer in the BPO sector, so he strongly believes the door will remain open to having call centres in destinations like Jamaica.

"Our American clients are in this to make a profit, so any such move would be unattractive for them," said Crump. "To make such a suggestion shows that the columnist did not seek to understand the sector before writing."

In the column, Stasi suggested that President Trump should target the over five million outsourced American customer service jobs across the globe as part of his drive to create new employment for Americans.

"Imagine the joy of not having to argue with somebody in the Philippines because your Chinese-made American jeans don't fit," said Stasi, "How absurd is it to call American Express only to get connected to a customer service rep on another continent?

"One survey found that America has (only) about five million people working in remote customer service, even though we are a country of over 325 million with tens of millions unemployed." Continues Stasi, "Hell, with today's technology, millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans can work as customer service reps at home."

If taken, Stasi's suggestion could hurt countries like Jamaica, which sees the BPO sector as one of the primary sources of future employment, but Muppuri says he is not worried by that possibility, which he thinks is unlikely to be given favourable consideration.

"For now, the discussions and speculations around it are going to be an unnecessary and unwanted detraction," said Muppuri. "Let us be optimistic and remain focused on what is to be done in the short order without having to ignore the fact that we need to chalk out and evolve ideal contingent plans to embrace any shortfall that may possibly erupt down the line."

The BPO sector, which is valued at approximately US$105 billion globally, currently provides employment for approximately 22,000 Jamaicans. The country is pushing to increase this number to 30,000 by 2020.