THE information technology-business process management (IT-BPM) industry is encouraged to look after the welfare of its employees and implement better working conditions to prevent the rise of labor disputes, which may cause a serious fracture to the country’s second largest dollar revenue source, an economist said yesterday.
Bernardo Villegas, senior vice president of University of Asia and the Pacific, warned that the industry is being closely watched by the leftist groups, who are sensitive to labor malpractices.
He noted that if the industry fails to solve inhumane working conditions happening in their respective companies, groups like the Kilusang Mayu Uno (KMU) would be ‘a threat’ to their industry. A bigger problem would arise if the left-leaning cabinet members would be emboldened and would start looking at bad practices in the industry, Villegas said during the second-day of the Cebu Digital Transformation Summit.
KMU or the May First Labor Movement Center, is an independent and democratic labor center protecting and promoting workers’ right to employment, wage, humane working conditions, and their right to form unions, bargain collectively and strike; and heighten workers’ political awareness and class consciousness through massive education, organizing and mobilization in and out of the workplace.
“We need to look beyond high salaries,” said Villegas, adding that IT-BPM companies need to treat their employees well so they could continue to benefit from this industry.
“Unfortunately, some companies are too focused at being cost-effective and end up already exploiting their workers,” he said.
The economist recommended that working conditions in the IT-BPM sphere be improved and that companies put a premium on employees’ health, safety, and even relationship with their families.
The IT-BPM industry is eyeing an 18-percent growth this year or a revenue of target of $24.5 million to $25.5 million.
At present, the industry employs 1.3 million workers. The IT and Business Process Association in the Philippines (IBPAP) is eyeing additional one million jobs in the next six years.
Villegas, who is popularly known in the business community as the Prophet of Boom, said China’s slowdown, low oil prices and the incoming administration will have “very little impact” on the country’s already fast-growing economy.
The economist recalled his previous prediction that regardless of who will be the successor of the current administration, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) will grow by six to seven percent.
“But my forecast for 2016 is that our country will grow by at least 7.5 percent,” said Villegas.
He explained that Filipinos working overseas, for instance, won’t cease sending money home despite the change in government leadership and that the overseas remittances will continue to be one of the country’s dollar revenue sources alongside the IT-BPM industry.
Combined, Villegas said this will fuel the growth in the country, which would remain to be consumption-driven.
The country has posted over $2 billion in cash remittances that continues to grow year-on-year at three to five percent. He projected, though, that in two years’ time, earnings from the BPO industry will surpass overseas Filipino remittances.
Villegas also favors the K+12 education program, saying that if implemented successfully, this bodes well for the IT-BPM industry as it will accelerate the talent pool that the industry needs.
“This is going to be a tremendous instrument for schools to introduce the type of skills that this industry needs,” he said, adding that the program will pave the way for more skill-oriented subjects that will immediately be used by students.
Because a having a young Englsh-speaking population is considered a gem for the IT-BPM industry, Villegas said any attempt to control the population would be detrimental to labor-intensive businesses.
“It will be suicide for us to start promoting birth control when the rest of the world regretted the decision of controlling the population,” said the economist, citing the population case of Japan, Taiwan and other countries that already have high-aging population.
He suggested, though, that the government invest in quality education, particularly in rural areas, so the country retains its supply of highly qualified workers.