Avia Collinder, Business Reporter
With 20 of 32 of Jamaica’s Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies located in Montego Bay, St James, members of the industry said the city’s appeal is connected not just its status as a tourist resort, but also a labour force with low attrition rates.
“As opposed to Kingston, which is the island’s economic, commerce and financial hub with a vibrant nightlife, Montego Bay is the tourism mecca boasting lavish resorts, pristine beaches and golf courses,” Yoni Epstein, president of the Business Processing Industry Association of Jamaica said.
Montego Bay, he said, “depicts a work-play proposition wherein executives can bring their family on a business trip, take care of business, but at the same time, enjoy the visit. Other factors include proximity to the world’s largest market for outsourcing services, the United States; great quality of life and competitive business costs.”
The area also has a low worker turnover, said Epstein, referring to what he described as a “dedicated and productive workforce”.
On average, it is estimated that Jamaica’s labour costs is 40-60 per cent lower than the United States.
“In terms of wages and salaries for Montego Bay, in comparison to Kingston, the wages are within the same range. In comparison to other countries, according to Zagada’s 2012 report, Jamaica’s agent daily labour costs is US$24, which, when compared to Panama’s US$38, Puerto Rico’s US$38, and the emerging BPO locations in the Caribbean such as Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, which is at US$26, is considered very competitive,” Epstein said.
However, there are some locations which are cheaper because of the size of the labour force.
Labour costs in countries such as Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic is at US$21 and it can be argued that size and availability of talent influence the cost, Epstein said..
However, Jamaica retains its appeal because of its English-speaking population. The only drawback to the Montego Bay area, Epstein said, is a limitation in skillsset among workers, which is being addressed through the siting of training institutions in the western region.
He said that “in establishing a call centre in Jamaica, the labour pool oftentimes influence the preferred location.” Montego Bay is currently hosting a majority of the contact centres in Jamaica, “but in terms of the higher value-added services, it can be argued that such entities are found in Kingston, given it’s the corporate centre of Jamaica,” he added.
Epstein explained that firms engaging in legal-processing outsourcing, human-resource outsourcing, software development, among others, can be found in Kingston.
widening of labour skills set
With the expansion of major tertiary institutions to Montego Bay and the provision of programmes to meet the industry’s need, it can be argued that there is a widening in terms of labour skillset in the western region,” he said. Kingston, however, still has a majority of the graduates and a wider variety of available skills set, he added.
Epstein cited a lack of space as a major challenge facing growth of the industry. “Lack of readily available space is a major challenge, with respect to accommodating investment and expansion within the industry. However, the Government of Jamaica and the private sector have been making strides in this aspect, and we do hope to see new developments in the coming months with respect to addressing this issue,” he said.
The total number of persons currently employed by the BPO sector is 13,250 and the association is projecting annual growth of 25 per cent.