The current pace of 21st Century mass migration is a problem that affects not only the individual migrant, the domestic tranquility of receiving countries but also the long-term economic vitality of nations exporting their potentially most valuable human capital. The notion of mass migration as a problem shouldn’t simply be dismissed as driven by xenophobic or reactionary impulses and one that the BPO Industry, particularly the fledgling Virtual Assistant market, is perfectly positioned to help play a useful role in addressing the challenges of mass migration & global poverty.
Mass migration is a problem largely driven by market factors. The expatriated migrant is understandably motivated by a desire to increase his or her economic opportunities while business has become increasingly reliant on low-cost human labor. The resulting global impact has created cultural & political friction within receiving nations that have exacerbated animosities between Right & Left that if left unaddressed could spur the conditions seen in St. Petersburg and Munich in the early decades of the 20th century.
While a certain degree of reproach against Right-wing xenophobia is justified, the Left is guilty of viewing the problem from a simplistic humanitarian viewpoint and whose “open border” solutions policy fails to address long-term economic solutions for migrant-exporting nations while arrogantly ignoring the most natural of human impulses, the desire to build a life in the place we truly call home.
Political leaders & activists on the Left encouraged increased migration and turn a blind eye to illegal immigration in large part to create wedge issues to use against the Right while failing to consider the impact this new wave of would-be citizens (and voters) have on the countries they leave behind. While delivering emotionally-laden appeals about the importance of “keep families together” they fail to recognize the hypocrisy that waves of migration to Western nations separate communities and entire countries.
The history of human migration has been largely predicated on necessity rather than a spirit of adventure. With that in mind, the solutions to the problem of mass migration will come from the marketplace while leaving the demagoguery and opportunism to the political class.
BPO AS A SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEMS OF MIGRATION
While it’s foolhardy to pretend the market alone can provide a solution to the whole of migration, particularly when it in many ways has created the impetus, market-based solutions can help reduce the need for human beings to uproot themselves from the land they call home. In doing so, it can provide for upward mobility and economic self-determination for the benefit of the individual as well as help migrant-exporting nations build upon their economic infrastructure. This is a calling the Business Process Outsource (BPO) industry is uniquely positioned to contribute to.
Much of my opinions on this matter come from more than a decade of experience in the BPO Industry, currently serving as CEO & Co-Founder of Stafftronix Virtual Assistants based in Cebu City, Philippines. As we are in the Philippines we are particularly sensitive to the impact migration has had on the nation we are headquartered in. While Overseas Filipino Workers (known locally as OFWs) provide vast sums of overseas remittances, critics argue it saps the nation of some of its most talented and ambitious young professionals. On top of economic concerns, the human impact on migrants separated from loved ones and the splintering of communities is a key aspect rarely discussed in the political conversation on migration.
A vibrant BPO industry has helped stem this tide but the industry has evolved largely without a plan in place to develop native entrepreneurialism and allow more Filipinos to become stakeholders. This in itself is not necessarily nefarious in its intent, but the natural evolution of industry developed to address specific business needs. But as we look toward a worldwide solution to the problems of migration throughout Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere we have the benefit of hindsight to look upon the history of BPO as a blueprint for the next generation.
A NEW MANDATE FOR THE BPO INDUSTRY
As previously noted, it’s not that the BPO industry has failed or been incomplete in its attempts to solve the problems of mass migration, but rather was never charged with a mandate to do so. Political remedies have been predictably inadequate given that sector’s inability to look beyond its next campaign opportunity.
It is important to note that the BPO industry can do little to address the demands on lower-cost physical labor, but the industry has proven for decades there is a huge demand for intellectual task-based labor that can be performed anywhere on the globe. Advances in technology are making this more affordable and feasible with each passing day, as evidenced by the demand for freelance virtual assistants.
Whereas the BPO was largely built on the needs of Enterprise-level firms, the fledgling Virtual Assistant and freelancer markets arose from the needs of small businesses and individual entrepreneurs who seek the same advantages BPO presents to large, multinational corporations.
This dynamic presents an opportunity to expand the existing BPO market space beyond Enterprise-level to engage more small & medium-sized businesses and in turn employ more remote workers outside of the traditional BPO hubs of India, the Philippines, and elsewhere. It also provides a very unique opportunity to encourage migrant-exporting nations to become stakeholders, even at the lowest levels.
The growing demand for Virtual Assistants can not only increase direct employment from migrant-exporting nations but can help create BPO “micro-hubs” driven by local entrepreneurs. As witnessed by the dazzling skylines of Mumbai or Manila, Enterprise-Level BPO requires large capital investment which naturally seeks out high-capacity campaigns to reap returns. The fledgling Virtual Assistant industry targeting smaller startups & business owners affords opportunities to create partnerships and develop stakeholders from among the very talent pool the industry draws on to service its clientele.
MARKET-BASED SOLUTIONS TO MIGRATION PROBLEMS
The New Economy community should embrace solutions to this problem because if the market fails to provide leadership and solutions to the problems of mass migration, solutions will be driven by those whose impulses are driven by political gain and predicated on emotion. This is a problem only the marketplace, and specifically, the New Economy community can adequately address.
For any solution to succeed it must satisfy the demands of all involved. While humble in its current position, the Virtual Assistant marketplace can meet the needs of small & medium-sized businesses in migrant-receiving countries while providing increased employment and entrepreneurial opportunities within migrant-exporting nations.
Talk of the “global marketplace” often conjures up images of goods and services being exchanged throughout the world on one hand, or factory sweatshops producing sneakers and mobile phones on the other. It is, of course, much broader than this and we live in an age where technology can greatly expand our notion of the global marketplace.
Throughout the whole of humanity, history labor had to travel where work could be had and job providers were dependent on human material of a given geographic area, or entice migration to those points, as with the Carnegie towns of old. This has been common to the human condition even before the construction of the pyramids in Egypt. We live in an incredible time where technology allows us to turn this practice upside down.
THE BPO MICRO-HUB
While still in its infancy, Stafftronix Virtual Assistants has begun developing affiliate and franchise opportunities with entrepreneurial partners in areas we draw professional talent from. While based in the Philippines we contract virtual employees across the world including Nicaragua, Colombia, Kenya, Nigeria, Vietnam, and elsewhere.
This is an evolution of our Philippines growth plan which consists of developing small regional offices in strategically-placed towns rather than a large headquarters Center in Cebu City. This provides the benefit of reducing our capital expenditures but also allows employees to earn competitive salaries without having to relocate away from family & friends. Having seen success with this model we are expanding this concept to other countries.
We are partnering with ambitious, entrepreneurial-minded individuals in these countries who may lack the capital investment and experience in the industry and work together toward mutual benefit. Stafftronix provides the operational structure and training while the local entrepreneur develops recruitment of sufficiently-skilled virtual assistants and daily management oversight.
A small micro-office in Nairobi or Managua suitable to house ten virtual assistants can be outfitted for a remarkably low cost and not only increases direct employment in its locale but now has a “leader” collaborating with Senior Management on best practices in all facets of the business. As countries improve their digital infrastructure the potential to expand this notion into the provinces and rural landscapes become possible as well.
IS THE MARKETPLACE BETTER SUITED THAN THE GOVERNMENT TO ADDRESS MIGRATION?
We talk a lot about micro-banking and other means to help local entrepreneurs in developing countries get access to capital to embark on their enterprises but speak little about what those opportunities will be. We nod at each other with knowing smiles when we see a CNN story about a third-world woman operating a trinket shop out of a kiosk at a tourist spot with monies obtained from a micro-bank loan but we rarely ask how we better engage emerging markets in the overall “global economy.”
In our line of business, a young woman from a small provincial town in the Philippines is handling the digital marketing efforts of a successful health club in Sydney and we have a young man in Nigeria handling the accounting needs of a prominent business coach in London. In both cases, we have talented professionals in their 20s engaging with and contributing to successful enterprises half a world away and developing not only their skills but business acumen to a degree most people their age are not, whether they live in Lagos or Los Angeles. Only the private sector can accomplish this.
Not only is the private sector best able to contribute to this solution it is in its best interest to do so. The benefits of broadening the marketplace are self-evident but it is far better to develop entrepreneurial leaders of the future in emerging markets than have them spend their 20s & 30’s driving a taxi cab in Madrid. This is as true for the world at large as it is for the countries currently exporting some of their most potentially valuable human material.