What Australia discovered outsourcing from the Philippines?

GONE are the days when a personal assistant had to be stationed next to the boss's desk.

Brisbane small businesses and sole traders have discovered "virtual PAs" - personal assistants based in the Philippines, India and all over the world - who do the work remotely, for a third of the price and at twice the speed.

Business owners say they are saving mountains of money by outsourcing time-consuming administration work.

Rod Westerhuis, a local real-estate agent, said he knows agents already using virtual PAs from the Philippines and is planning on hiring one himself in the new year. He said it's a "no-brainer".

"I can hire three of these assistants for the same price I'd get someone locally here in Brisbane," he said.

"It might cost me $700 a month for a full-time assistant and that's inclusive of everything; there's no extra super, sick pay or holiday pay on top of that.''

He said businesses were often reluctant to admit they used virtual workers because of the stigma attached to outsourcing.

"Some people get really offended by it, they think it's unethical. And while it might not be much money to us, it's a lot of money in the Philippines. And it's also about running a business efficiently and effectively," Mr Westerhuis said.

Brett Elvish, who runs his own finance consultancy business, regularly outsources administration and marketing work to other countries.

He prefers workers in the Philippines because of the small difference in time zones (two hours) and because they are tertiary qualified - but he has also outsourced work to the US.

"One woman, I gave her 10 hours of time to do some research for me and said that, once the 10 hours was up, we'd discuss how she was going,'' Mr Elvish said.

"I got an email saying the work had been done in 5.5 hours. At $6.60 an hour, the honesty and integrity was incredible. Why wouldn't I go back to that?"

A former director of a large finance company said he "shudders" to think about how much money was wasted on tasks that could have been outsourced.

"I've run much bigger companies than what I'm doing now and I think about the amount of money we would have wasted on all sorts of tasks … and how much money we would have saved by using these services," he said.

He agreed there was a stigma to outsourcing jobs. "I think there is that element there for some people. I've been asked by people if it is sweatshop-type stuff but it's simply not true," the ex-director said.

"People are very precious about Australian jobs and while I think that's fair enough, we need to accept that the world is now a smaller place.

"There's an enormous range of things that businesses are not taking advantage of. Bigger businesses are often lazy and reluctant to change, rather than having a strong moral aversion to something like this. It's laziness."

Paul Ellison, director of recruitment company People Plus, said the impact on the administration and personal-assistant job market would be "incredibly minimal".

"Maybe, in the more transactional or lower skill set part of the market, it could be useful, but some skills sets can never be done remotely or virtually. A lot of these jobs require an understanding of communication and a compatibility with their employer," he said.

Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/executive-style/manila-folders-going-to-manila-20111126-1o0nf.html

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