MANILA – The Philippine IT and Business Process Management (IT-BPM) sector managed to sail through 2020 by posting employment and revenue growth despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, a business organization representing the sector said Saturday.
In a statement, the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) reported that the number of full-time employees (FTEs) of the sector in the country increased by 23,000 in 2020, bringing the total industry headcount to 1.32 million.
The sector also registered growth of 1.8% compared to 2019 and recorded revenues of $26.7 billion in 2020, or a 1.4% jump from the previous year.
It represented a rare rise in business, as most industries experienced record declines last year due to the pandemic.
“These numbers come as very welcome news for the industry especially with the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) slipping by 9.6% in 2020,” said IBPAP president and CEO Rey E. Untal.
Early this month, the Philippine Statistics Authority’s revised estimates said the Philippine economy contracted by -9.6 percent in 2020, with economic activity hindered by restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Unemployment also ballooned 17.6 percent in April 2020 following the imposition of the first lockdown.
“When IBPAP commissioned the recalibration study in July 2020, we already knew that the far-reaching effects of the health crisis did not spare the IT-BPM sector. The fact that it reached this level of growth by yearend is proof of the industry’s resilience and fundamental role in the Philippine economy,” said Untal.
IBPAP said that while the hospitality and travel sectors were affected by the pandemic, verticals like health care, e-commerce and retail, banking, finance and administration, and insurance flourished, enough to help propel the industry’s headcount and revenue growth.
The Philippine IT-BPM sector was already able to display signs of recovery by the fourth quarter of 2020, the organization said.
The latter part of the year also saw an upturn in IT Outsourcing (ITO) projects as clients invested more in digitization to mitigate prevailing issues caused by the outbreak, and as a way to enhance their business continuity plans.
In an industry-wide survey carried out by IBPAP, it was shown that 87% of IT-BPM companies are expecting to see between 5 and 15% growth in 2021, with the other 13% anticipating flat growth.
There was also a good number of firms expressing plans to expand in the countryside within the next 12 to 18 months.
A majority of organizations are also saying that hybrid working models will continue to prevail in 2021 and possibly until next year.
Currently, the IT-BPM sector is able to deliver work and provide service through a 70-30 split between work-from-home and on-site work and will most likely change depending on company policies, government mandates, and digital capabilities.
IBPAP also found that IT-BPM firms will be prioritizing optimization of existing operations, digital transformation, and the upskilling of their human capital this year.
A separate recalibration study conducted by the Everest Group identified strategic imperatives to help the industry achieve its potential to attain headcount growth of 5% and revenue growth of 5.5% per annum from 2021 to 2022, the group said.
These include a "stronger pivot towards becoming a more digitally enabled nation," expediting investments to attract and develop talent, enhancing government support and boosting the sector's role in influencing public policy towards a friendlier business environment, and improving telecommunications, power, and transport infrastructure, among others.