The Philippines is considered a global leader in business process outsourcing (BPO), and its services sector is a competitive advantage. University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) director for research and communications Bernardo Villegas explained that the country’s service sector is booming due to the “above average quality” of the Filipino talent pool.
Villegas said the service sector’s strengths lie in low labor costs, high tertiary education levels, adaptable workforce, English fluency, and cultural compatibility with the United States and other countries in the West.
Compared to countries like China and Singapore, the country’s population also has a low median age (23.1 years) with young, talented people swelling the labor force. The Philippines is more than capable of supplying high-quality talent in the fields of healthcare, accounting, education, architecture and BPO to ASEAN members like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, which are struggling with skills shortages.
Villegas said the services sector is a powerful tool for the country to achieve inclusive growth. However, he stressed that the agriculture industry needs looking after.
“We are in greatest danger in the field of agri-business because that has been our biggest mistake … we have neglected agricultural development. So there is no way we can compete … with Thailand and Malaysia in that sector,” said Villegas.
He said the country must remain flexible and competitive in terms of luring foreign direct investments, proposing an aggressive infrastructure program as a solution. Large investments in physical infra projects like airports, trains, highways and ports are needed to catch up with other ASEAN members. Villegas believes that infrastructure improvements will boost the manufacturing and service sectors, which in turn will attract investors.