By Leslie Ann Aquino and Hannah Torregoza
With big players already posting thousands of additional seats to fill their manpower requirements, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is seeing the resurgence of the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry in the country in the coming months.
The optimism followed a meeting with IT-BPO industry leaders where officials noted that the industry continues to provide employment opportunities amid the pandemic.
“We received information that some big companies have already given notice for their requirements, one of which needing at least 4,000 seats to be filled up before September,” Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said Sunday.
Bello believes the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent global recession will force the West to offshore more jobs in the industry, a good size of which will go to the Philippines, particularly Clark, Cebu, and Metro Manila.
Rey Untal, president and chief executive officer of the IT Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), told labor officials in a meeting over the weekend that companies continue to hire to fill the demand of the industry.
“The industry indeed continues to hire (despite the pandemic),” he said.
The meeting was prompted by a recent online survey of a BPO employees’ group which reported that four out of 10 BPO workers are either in floating or ‘no-work-no-pay status during the lockdown.
Untal’s group is taking the initiative to intervene and discuss the issues raised by the workers with the country heads of concerned BPO companies.
DOLE, meantime, appealed to employees who are still on leave to return to work to help the industry continuously provide service in these difficult times.
The labor department earlier issued several guidelines for employers to protect jobs and prevent layoffs and retrenchments.
Skills improvement necessary
The mounting concern over the high unemployment rate in the country brought about by the pandemic can be resolved through “re-skilling and up-skilling” of workers, Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said on Sunday.
Re-skilling and up-skilling the workforce is reportedly now more important than ever as businesses struggle to keep their heads above water.
The senator made the call as he renewed his push for the passage of two measures — Senate Bill No. 1469 (proposed National Digital Careers Act) and Senate Bill 1470 (proposed National Digital Transformation Act) that would help address this concern.
“Unemployment hit a high of 17.7 percent in April this year. That’s over 7.3 million Filipinos who need jobs. During this pandemic, many businesses have to cut costs or start exploring new ways of making money. We cannot operate on a business as usual basis anymore,” Angara said.
“This is why we have been pushing for the up-skilling of our workforce towards competencies that are required by employers and a lot of these are digital. These are the two terms that many of us will hear a lot these days,” he noted.
For many establishments, Angara said re-skilling would be the quickest and most cost efficient way to get their employees back to work.
And once the economy is back on track, he predicted the job landscape would change, saying there are jobs that probably would no longer be required and new ones that will open up.
Nevertheless, the senator said reskilling the workforce would be fairly easy and inexpensive.
“There will be adjustments in salaries for sure, but what is important to many people at this time is to have a continuous and stable source of income,” the Senate finance committee chief said.
He also said there would also be a significant segment of the workforce that will require up-skilling, “especially now that everything is shifting towards online and digital.”
Angara has been pushing for digital transformation in the Philippines as a means to prepare the government, businesses and labor in coping with the rapidly changing world even before the COVID-19 pandemic started.
“Unlike traditional jobs, many of which are now deemed nonessential, digital careers will always be around and we should take advantage of this,” Angara said.
He pointed out that some of the common digital careers that are sought after today include web development and design; online teaching and tutoring; content creation; digital marketing; mobile app development; search engine optimization; web research, business intelligence and data analytics; transcription and data entry; customer service and technical support; human resource management and systems; and medical coding, billing and other health IT services.
The Senate, he said, will work with the Department of Education (DepEd) and Technological Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to provide the necessary digital skills training so Filipinos will be able to avail of these employment opportunities.
Angara noted that the country’s education system is currently undergoing a major overhaul due to the “new normal,” pointing out that “technology will play a major role” in the course of the time.
“We should start incorporating digital skills in the curriculum of our students as early as primary school so that they will have access to more opportunities by the time they graduate or even if they fail to complete their education for whatever reason,” Angara said.