The great outsourcing story used to be from Europe to India (IT) and China (manufacturing). But now southeast Asian countries are the preferred destination, and not just for western companies. India and China are outsourcing to their Asean neighbours too.
That’s according to Adecco, the world’s largest provider of HR services, which says its clients increasingly want to hire in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
That Chinese and Indian companies are outsourcing to the same destinations as western multinations might seem odd, as the services outsourced to Asean are exactly those in which China and India used to be strong. But it fits into a broader logic.
“As Indian and Chinese companies grow bigger and climb up the value chain, they too look for affordable and available talent to perform their work,” Patrick De Maeseneire, chief executive of Adecco, told beyondbrics in Davos at last week’s business forum. And as the Chinese population grows older, and wages rise, and India has more demand for IT-skilled workers than it has supply, they too move to Asean.
For western multinationals, the move towards Asean – as opposed to staying at home or moving to the China or India – is straightforward, De Maeseneire explained: “At home, the workforce is ageing. In China and India the labour cost is rising, and the availability of skilled workers decreasing. That leaves Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines as an option. There, they find available workers who are at the same time skilled and affordable.”
Within southeast Asia, the preferred destination for call centers and IT is the Philippines, with its good education system and plethora of English-speakers. Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia, on the other hand, do well in manufacturing.
“Our clients that want to set up manufacturing, temporary call centers or IT outsourcing in EMs increasingly do so in countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia,” said De Maeseneire. In the portfolio of Adecco are companies such as Volkswagen, Google, P&G, and many other multinationals.
As a consequence of their clients looking to Asean, Adecco itself is considering expanding in southeast Asia. So far, it has no presence in these countries, but that could change within the next two to three years. “If we haven’t already opened an office in two years, for sure our plans to do so will be concrete,” De Maeseneire said. “We have no choice but to be where our clients are.”