Jamaica to make work from home for BPO sector more efficient: BPO sector jobs increased by 15 percent

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Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Senator the Hon. Aubyn Hill, highlights a point while making his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate, on Friday (July 16). Photo: MARK BELL

By Alecia Smith

KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – Minister without portfolio in the ministry of economic growth and job creation, Senator Aubyn Hill, says the government is working to make the work from home arrangement for the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector smoother and more efficient; meanwhile the number of jobs in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector increased by 15 percent over the past year, with 44,000 people employed in the sector as of June 30, 2021. This compares to the corresponding period in 2020, which saw 38,400 persons being employed.

Jobs increase by 15 percent in BPO sector

Senator Hill, who made the disclosure said this increase in jobs happened despite the economy shrinking by over 10 percent during the same period.

“I am extremely pleased to tell Jamaicans that in the year to June 30, 2021, the BPO Services sector brought in US$780 million to the Jamaican economy. That’s no small sneeze (during) a time when our economy was shrinking,” he said, while making his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate, on Friday, July 16.

Senator Hill stressed that the government truly appreciates the commitment of cash, management and energy that the 87 operators in the sector, including 10 Fortune500 companies, have made to Jamaica and the thousands of jobs these investors have provided for so many Jamaicans.

“This ministry of economic growth and job creation will continue to do everything in our power and within the law to provide the support and ease-of-operation these investors need to run their businesses,” he said, further pointed out that growth plans for the sector include nine new sites across Jamaica by existing players, adding that “there is a new investor who is about to establish a 70-seat facility in the Montego Bay area.”

Make work from home for BPO sector more efficient

“The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused us to make a close review of the activities in Jamaica’s global services business and especially in the BPO sector. In the process, we have decided to look at how best to make work at home operate more smoothly, efficiently, and mutually beneficial to all stakeholders,” he said.

Senator Hill, who was making his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate, on Friday, July 16, noted that in this review, it has been observed that the working arrangement between the Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority (JSEZA) and the Global Services Association of Jamaica (GSAJ) members and operators “is less than efficient and needs a thorough reworking.”

He said that many operators in the global services sector find the JSEZA to be overly bureaucratic sometimes, often inefficient and that it takes too long to get responses and decisions.

“For instance, operators say it takes up to eight days to get approval to move equipment from sites to work at home facilities – that’s just too long (and) JSEZA quarterly reports often ask for information that is not regularly tracked,” he noted, the operators are requesting that the Government looks at giving them their own legislative arrangements, possibly separate from being under the JSEZA.

“We are looking at this, no decision has been made yet. We are reviewing these requests and comments and more will be said on this in the near future,” he said.

Senator Hill stressed that the ministry of economic growth and job creation places great importance on this growing sector of the economy and wants to take all the necessary steps to make sure the BPO and other sectors within the GSAJ, have every operational incentive and ease within the country’s laws and regulations, to grow and prosper.

The minister noted that after his appointment in the ministry in September 2020, he quickly got involved in getting an additional six-month extension for the work at home policy for the BPO sector in December 2020.

“I have been negotiating with the ministry of finance (and the Public Service) since that time, and just before the end of June and the last six months extension, (minister of finance and the public service, Dr Nigel Clarke) and his team agreed to a longer one-year extension of the work at home policy,” he said, pointing out that this further extension allows investors and operators more planning and operating time, and is “something for which the operators have been pressing.”

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