By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT
The number of full-time employees (FTEs) in the IT business process management (IT-BPM) industry increased by 71,000 in 2019, bringing the total industry headcount to 1.3 million or 5.8 percent higher compared to 2018, while revenues also grew to $26.3 billion or 7.1 percent more than the previous year, but 2020 would be a different story due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP).
In a statement, IBPAP also said the 2019 numbers show that industry growth is closer to the high range of the recalibrated figures of Roadmap 2022.
IBPAP President and CEO Rey Untal said, “It’s also a testament to the IT-BPM sector’s resilience and tenacity—that despite global and domestic headwinds, the Philippines remains competitive, relevant, and thriving.”
Unfortunately, Untal said, the same growth cannot be said for this year as the ITBPM sector is dealing with the global economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Domestically speaking, Untal said, this will have an impact on 2020 headcount and revenue projections and will also modify prevailing work and service models within the industry.
IBPAP noted that growth in 2019 was driven by large incumbents that continued to expand not only in Metro Manila but also in strategic delivery locations in the countryside like Bacolod, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Laguna, and Pampanga.
These companies accounted for 51,000 of the additional FTEs tallied last year.
There were also a considerable number of new investors and locators that set up their operations in the country. Half of the entrants were global in-house centers (GICs) providing services in healthcare, finance and accounting, human resources, IT and software, and content moderation.
Finally, leveraging on higher technology and omnichannel solutions to augment human support, while may not have directly influenced headcount growth, enabled the delivery of more non-voice and IT services as well as the optimization of digital strategies.
A strong pivot to mid and high-value skills also contributed, with 65 percent of the workforce able to render more complex and varied services for international and local clients.
Untal said the Philippines has long-proven its value proposition as a premier investment destination for IT-BPM services around the world and that the industry’s sustained 2019 growth in the country further reinforces this reality.
As a provider of essential services, the sector was able to continue operations and increase capacity throughout the Enhanced Community Quarantine with the help of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases.
This continuing ability to further mobilize and optimize the IT-BPM delivery models during the ECQ has significantly improved the industry’s productivity rate, with 58 percent of employees working from home and another 15 percent delivering work as part of the skeleton staff housed on-site or in nearby hotels. A couple of weeks ago, these figures were only at 40 percent and 10 percent respectively.
Recent findings also show that while travel and tourism continued to face challenges, sectors like healthcare, telecommunications, financial services, and e-commerce saw an uptick in demand.
IBPAP said the industry has also developed a framework towards a gradual exit from the lockdown. guideline is a set of recommendations, which individual IT-BPM companies can tailor-fit to their own transition plans as they exit towards a new normal.
The dialogue on rebalancing, reshaping, and re-solutioning the future of the sector is another critical and expected next step, and one that requires multi-agency, multi-industry, and multi-sectoral cooperation to ensure the country’s continuing relevance in the global marketplace despite and amid the challenges.