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BPOs recovering from COVID-19

MONTEGO BAY, St James – Half of the 40,000 workers employed in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector across the island are currently working from their homes amid government restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

President of the Global Services Association of Jamaica (GSAJ), Gloria Henry, disclosed that the industry, which was initially negatively impacted by the pandemic, has been recovering remarkably since the last quarter of 2020.

“Since October last year we have been rebounding significantly and we are back to over 40,000 employees, and about 20,000 work from home,” Henry told the Business Observer.

Noting that the sector is now enjoying a third waiver, which ends in June, from Government to work-from-home, the GSAJ president explained that bilateral talks are currently underway for a more permanent remote working arrangement.

“We trying to get a more long-term policy that speaks to a specific percentage ratio that allows us to plan and to have more predictability with our growth strategy and continuing to support the economy and foreign exchange earnings,” Henry said.

“Currently we have an extension that goes until June, so this is a third extension that we have gotten (from the Ministry of Finance) on the bond waiver to facilitate work-from-home from the special economic zone.”

Henry argued that “work at home, or remote work” has become a global strategy since COVID-19 and Jamaica has been seeking to get a policy in place to address current Ministry of Health (MOH) guidelines and adherence to COVID-19 protocols as well as to remain globally competitive.

” We are eager to get a policy in place for work at home. We have seen that other countries in the world have moved ahead with establishing their virtual zones and we believe that Jamaica is poised and positioned to move along the same trajectory in establishing a remote and virtual modality to accommodate and facilitate this kind of work to remain globally competitive,” she said.

The GSAJ president further argued that remote work allows “business to use it for emergencies, disaster or crisis”.

“Therefore, it is a good business continuity tool. It can help in knowledge transfer across the cluster in Jamaica and support increased employment and foreign exchange earnings,” Henry noted.

She added: “A policy that stipulate a clear ratio and other legal and regulatory requirements would address concerns by statutory bodies.”

Henry expressed confidence that the sector will continue to grow. In fact, she cited that growth is being recorded, especially in the higher value segment.

She explained that information technology outsourcing and knowledge process outsourcing form the higher value segment. The traditional business process outsourcing, such as customer service, now “forms the largest volume in Jamaica”.

“The companies who operate in the high value segment are seeing increased growth: some of them are expanding; some have already expanded; and some are in the process of expanding and we are seeing new sites being opened in Kingston and in Montego Bay as well,” she stated.

” Once we are able to establish the protocols and work with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to maintain satisfactory compliance within the sites, then our focus had been on growing now and moving up the value chain.”