KING OF KINGSTON

Jamaica 2018 | IT & BPO | FOCUS: BPO SERVICES

A technological revolution is taking place at the heart of the Caribbean, as the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector rapidly emerges as one of the country's biggest employers.

While people more commonly associate the Caribbean with paradisiacal beaches, high unemployment, and a young population relying on tourism, the burgeoning business process outsourcing industry has emerged as a key industry in certain island nations.
Though the industry debuted in Jamaica less than a decade ago, it is quickly becoming one of the country's most important employers.
In the past five years alone, employment in the sector more than doubled. From 12,000 people in 2011 to over 25,000 in 2016, the government expects that by the first quarter of 2018, 14,000 new jobs will be created in the sector, totaling 39,000 positions.
There are over 40 BPO companies working in the sector in Jamaica today, and more are bound to come. Collective Solution, for example, a new BPO venture, has stated it could create as many as 3,400 positions at its campus in Sandy Bay as early as 2018. The facility is currently undergoing a USD2-million refurbishment.
This bodes well for Jamaica's youth, which has been facing a declining job market, but also for the country at large, which aims to become a regional center as a BPO service provider.
The government's outlook seems to be that the sector's growth is relentless. Now contributing over USD400 million to the local economy each year, the labor-intensive operations of BPO firms could offer a concrete solution to the country's unemployment rates, which today stands at 12.9% of the general population according to the World Bank, or an alarming 27% for youth specifically. Jamaican authorities expect 100,000 new jobs to be created in the sector in the next five years.
And for these ambitions to come to fruition, a number of legal and procedural systems have been put in place to improve the country's attractiveness to foreign investors. It is Jamaica's structural advantages that have allowed it to become a hub for BPO in the Caribbean. As the largest English-speaking nation in the Caribbean, Jamaica benefits from being in the US east-coast time zone, geographical proximity to the US, and a well-educated youth that speaks the same language as its clients in North America. This has allowed the country to aggressively tap into that market with great success.
As a highly technology-dependent service, industry pundits have been placing an emphasis on the importance of human resources to secure industry growth going forward. Organizations active in the sector have been making efforts to improve skills among workers. The Caribbean Maritime Institute's (CMI) School of Advanced Skills, for example, promoted a seminar on the fundamentals of effective workplace mentoring for 40 managers in the Jamaican BPO sector in May 2017. Starting in August, the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ) started a series of workshops with SMEs offering outsourcing services for evaluating service provision improvements across the sector.
Above all, the country aims at showcasing, close to industry players, the support services that have been made available by the government and its agencies.
Toward the end of 2017, the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) engaged the services of a national coordinator to promote investment as part of a widespread campaign to improve both the image and the performance of this fast-growing industry. However, besides human resource development, the sector will need to remain relevant, and within the information technology and BPO sector, this could come by an expansion of the available services and technology on offer to tap into to the US market. Telecoms solutions, phone applications development, and tech support for a multiplicity of sectors have started to gain traction among companies in Jamaica aiming to expand their business portfolios.

The country's strategic linguistic, demographic, and geographic advantages paired with lower labor costs will remain attractive to US investors in the future if the regulatory and business environment continues to improve. Otherwise, just as easily as it came, investment will go to nearby rivals.