Large-scale high-level English language skills and relatively low wages have seen Filipino workers become the top choice for remote employees for blockchain projects around the world. But is the industry exploiting these workers, or has telecommuting during the pandemic helped the country grow and develop?
If you’ve ever contacted customer support for a cryptocurrency exchange, chances are you have a great chat with a Filipino employee. It’s highly prized by coding projects for strong English skills and friendly and polite behaviors – and let’s be honest: dirty cheap wages.
It leaves many project leaders grapple with the ethics of paying Filipino employees little money to save on overheads. Is it fair that a blockchain developer in the Philippines gets $ 10,000 for similar work as a blockchain developer in Australia gets $ 70,000?
It is a complex ethical question and there are no easy answers, but many Filipinos believe there are benefits to both sides. Mike Meslos, founder of local crypto news site Bitpinas, says people who know them appreciate the opportunity because international companies pay far higher wages than most Filipinos would otherwise earn.
“If someone makes $ 1,000 a month in development work, even though that’s less than what a junior developer gets in the US, it’s still much higher compared to the average base salary here,” he says.
An entire industry called Business Process Outsourcing has sprung up to take advantage of the Philippines’ nearly unique blend of labor availability, cost, English language proficiency and cultural affinity. It is the second largest economic engine in the country, with annual revenues of $ 25 billion and employing 1.2 million people.
A special set of historical circumstances led to this point. It was a former US colony, and the population remains forever grateful that General MacArthur fulfilled his promise to free them from Japanese occupation during WWII. And to this day, Filipinos are even more pro-American than Americans. Daily life is a mixture of eastern and western culture, and nearly everyone speaks English except for small rural villages.
The business process outsourcing industry started to boom in the 1990s, as foreign companies started setting up call centers and now spanning eight subsectors including back office, software development, game development, and engineering design. For decentralized blockchain projects, agencies like Cloudstaff take care of sourcing personnel, make payments and handle local paperwork on the ground, which means that all the projects you have to worry about are actual business.
Lea Callon-Butler was previously the lead marketing officer for an international crypto project and has lived in Clark (two hours outside Manila) since August 2018 when she traveled to spend a month working with the six-member Filipino team on the project.
“We never met them,” she explains. “The Filipino developers, they’ve been working on pretty basic coding stuff, but they really wanted to root their teeth in blockchain elements.” “We just wanted to spend some quality time with them and help mentors, their training and skills. We fell in love with the place,” she adds.
Callon-Butler admits that the project’s decision to hire software developers through CloudStaff has reduced costs. The project ICO was completely undermined by the coded winter in early 2018. “We couldn’t afford a six-person team in Australia or Europe, but we could in the Philippines,” she says.
But you get here and realize that these people who work at CloudStaff, for example, represent the growing middle class with all this brand new buying power that wasn’t there before. ” She adds:
“When you realize the difference in purchasing power, it’s like, ‘Yes, they are earning a lot, much less than an Australian salary.’ But living here costs a lot less too.”
For example, an inexpensive meal in a restaurant or even a Mac Mill in McDonald’s costs around $ 3 and a one-bedroom apartment can be rented for Under $ 200 a month.
She explained that the first Filipino developer at Intimate.io had enough of his salary to be able to purchase two new cars within a year, one for himself and the other for his parents:
“We said, Wow. That’s very generous. He said,” Well, they sold their family’s car, to put me in college. “And then when he got this high-paying job, and his career was advancing, he bought them a brand new car to say to them,” Thank you, my mother and my father”.
The epidemic promotes remote work
The business process outsourcing industry has also proven invaluable to some Filipinos who have been forced to work from home during the pandemic, explains Mark Anthony “Tony” Ekim, 35. He lives in Cagayan de Oro and works remotely as the office manager for the Australian cryptocurrency trading education site Merchant cupAfter previously working for the Australian telecom company Telstra.
He says his wife and he “estimate that we were in the right position to work at home because a lot of people are still actually coping with this kind of preparation. But we really have this advantage because we’ve been doing it for so long.” He goes on to say:
“In the past, I would say five years, there were more people who moved in to work at home, even before the epidemic started. In my circle of friends, I would say, nearly 50% have already moved into work at home.”
“Interest has definitely increased over the past few months, especially with this epidemic, because people are at home and want to learn how to earn other sources of income,” he says.
Not everything was smooth sailing though, with the living conditions of many in the outsourcing industry inappropriate To work remotely due to congestion and noise pollution. The internet infrastructure is also dilapidated, ranking 63 out of 100 countries in the 2020 Comprehensive Internet Index.
NFT objects grow for fun and profit
One of the surprising developments in remote earning during the pandemic has been the increase in the Filipino population earn Minimum wage multipliers in the Axie Infinity-based NFT-style blockchain CryptoKitties.
The most dedicated players can earn up to 10,000 pesos a week by increasing Axies and earning SLP tokens from their cellphone. Even the Blockchain space in the Philippines started an Axie Academy to guide locals in “playing for profit”.
“It kind of took off during the pandemic because most people in the Philippines have a cell phone,” Callon-Butler explains:
“There were some players who wanted to raise their ax but couldn’t be bothered by playing the game and doing all the fighting. So there was a secondary market set up where all these Filipinos who were stuck at home in lockdown position with no income and nothing else to do (they found work). It was a kind of savior where people couldn’t make money any other way. “
SLP tokens were traded on Uniswap, which means all Filipino players have been air-dropped from 400 UNI tokens – worth over a half-year wage for some. “Uniswap has put them in the top percentile for county income, and is a very rich person,” she says. “Suddenly, word spread that people not only found a way to make money, but also found a way to make serious money in the Philippines.”
Remote developers help with development
The opportunity to earn relatively good wages through telecommuting may help reverse the brain drain that is causing millions of young Filipinos to go abroad to make money. resend For their families. In addition, telecommuting helps support the rapid economic growth that, even the epidemic, is stuck GDP fell by 9.5%, It was average 6.4% growth every year over the past decade.
Callon-Butler says she has seen the positive effects on society firsthand. “Cool cafes, bars, fine restaurants and shopping malls have sprung up in response to this growing middle class who suddenly has all this disposable income,” she says. “So it’s amazing to see how much of this international influx of capital in terms of employing these people overseas is literally changing the course of life.”
For Echem, the opportunities presented by the country’s decentralized workforce could help the Philippines realize its full potential during his lifetime. “We are a third world country at the moment,” he says, adding:
“I really think we are positioning ourselves as a country to at least be the first world before my generation is over. I’m very optimistic about that, with the progress we’re making.”