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INTERVIEW - Western Balkans' appeal as outsourcing destination grows, TELUS Intl Europe official says

Author Mario Tanev
INTERVIEW - Western Balkans' appeal as outsourcing destination grows, TELUS Intl Europe official says Julian Milev, vice president finance and CFO of TELUS International Europe

SOFIA (Bulgaria), July 12 (SeeNews) - The Western Balkans are becoming an increasingly attractive destination for outsourcing companies thanks to the lower labour costs they offer, a senior official of Sofia-based outsourcing services provider TELUS International Europe told SeeNews.

“In addition to labour arbitrage, another major factor is the high demand for German-speaking employees, which are abundant in the Western Balkans for several reasons,” Julian Milev, vice president finance and CFO of TELUS International Europe, told SeeNews in a recent interview.

Bulgaria and Romania too are still offering attractive labour costs for outsourcing companies, as the convergence process with the EU is occurring slower than expected, Milev opined. In addition, the workforce in Bulgaria and Romania has good language and technical skills, he noted.

The average monthly labour cost per employee in Bulgaria in 2017 amounted to 2,182 euro ($2,486) in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, and 1,339 euro in the information technology outsourcing (ITO) segment, according to the Southeast Europe Sourcing Industry report, commissioned by the Bulgarian Outsourcing Association (BOA) and prepared by SeeNews. Romania posted average monthly labour cost per employee of 2,079 euro in the BPO sector and 1,193 in the ITO one.

Among the countries in Southeast Europe for which data was available, Slovenia posted the highest average monthly labour cost per employee in both the BTO and ITO segments - 3,739 euro and 1,737 euro, respectively, while Serbia registered the lower - 1,704 euro and 863 euro, respectively.

According to Milev, artificial intelligence and automation are replacing workers responsible for the most basic support tasks, while at the same time creating a need for employees with a broader skill set. In addition, the constant growth of the outsourcing sector is further tightening the Bulgarian labour market.

Over the 2014-2017 period, the number of people employed in the outsourcing sector grew by an annual average of 19%, reaching over 220,000 in 2017, according to the Southeast Europe Sourcing Industry report.

As shortage for skilled workers in the Bulgarian capital is growing, both TELUS International Europe and its peers are focusing on other possible locations, including Varna, Burgas, and Plovdiv.

TELUS International Europe has three CX and IT delivery centers in Bulgaria - two in Sofia and one, which opened in 2009, in Plovdiv. They employ over 3,000 people, who provide services in over 40 languages.

In a bid to address the labour shortage, outsourcing companies in Bulgaria and Romania, including TELUS International Europe, are increasingly engaging in campaigns to bring back home members of the expatriate community, Milev said. To sweeten their offer, employers need to add to the job package state-of-the-art office space and extensive social benefits programmes.

Looking forward, Milev said that in the event of a possible global economic slowdown or recession, the business process outsourcing will be far less affected in comparison to other industries. Depending on the client mix, a recession could even lead to more opportunities for the BPO sector, he added.

A major driving force the outsourcing sector at the moment are the emerging disruptive technologies, with companies like Uber and Airbnb opting to outsource their support services, he went on to say.

 

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