The BPO Industry in the Philippines started in the capital of Manila in the early 2000’s. Almost 20 years later, it has rapidly expanded across the Philippine archipelago. One such locale that has greatly benefited from BPOs is Iloilo City. Formerly a trading hub during the Spanish and American colonial era, Iloilo has fallen dormant in the later half of the 20th century. It is only just now making a comeback thanks to BPOs — and this is how they did it.
One of the primary reasons for BPOs expanding outside of Metro Manila is the congestion. As the country modernized, more and more businesses began establishing headquarters in the nation’s capital. This made real estate extremely more expensive. However, BPOs had one advantage over most other industries: it was technology-driven. This feature allowed for companies to expand to less urbanized provinces, Iloilo included. As Iloilo transitioned into a more urbanized and less trade-dependent region, BPOs took notice of the developments in infrastructure.
A prior deterrence to this move was the educational system in place. Manila is home to the Filipino “Ivy League” and multiple universities. While there are colleges in many provinces, there was a regional disparity in the quality of graduates produced — specifically as to English fluency. As the economy developed, more residents were afforded access to these institutions. Majority of graduate and postgraduate degrees are still unavailable in Iloilo but it is home to the top-performing undergraduate schools in health-allied sciences such as nursing, medical technology, and pharmacy.
Despite the available real estate for BPOs and educational improvements for the populace, not all the elements were inherently present twenty years ago. Iloilo’s labor was almost always outsourced overseas or to other parts of the country. Graduates worked in Manila or sought employment in the US. To expand in Iloilo during this time would be to come up dry when it came to the human resource availability. Thankfully, with education having become more accessible to the general population, the labor pool was teeming with high quality professionals. This was a signal to the BPO industry that it was due time to expand in Iloilo.
Since then, BPOs have been aggressively expanding and recruiting across the country. There are currently 19 establishments in the city alone, without mentioning satellite headquarters farther inland. Ayala Technohub alone accounts for 9% of the city’s office stock. Last June 2018, Iloilo was listed as among Tholon’s Top 100 BPO hubs in the world.
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