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What are Filipinos like?

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By Derek Stewart

When Australian SMEs are considering hiring offshore staff in the Philippines, sooner or later, they will ask me: “What are Filipinos’ like?

Let’s pause for a moment and reverse the question to one I am often asked by Filipinos, as an Aussie expat living in the Philippines: “What are Australians’ like?

Wow. Where to begin? It depends on who they are, where they’re from, what they do, how old they are and more. Aussies are famously laid back, but what about the city slickers in Melbourne and Sydney CBDs? Life sure moves quickly there. Just try standing still on a train station escalator during peak hour.

What about the quality of their work? Their work ethic? Their honesty? Their integrity? Will they steal or cheat?

When I was backpacking through the USA more than one hostel had a “No Australians” hiring policy. Too often they would agree to have guests work a half day in exchange for free accommodation, only to have the Aussies being too hungover to show up. This happened enough that they refused to entertain job applications from any Australians. While not always on your best behaviour when travelling abroad for fun and adventure, it’s interesting to see the perspective that people abroad have of Australians in some circumstances.

What about accents and the quality of their English? Are they difficult to understand and will it cause frustration?

Many Australians are turned down from teaching English in Asia because they don’t have a desirable American accent. The people running the school think they’re talking with marbles in their mouth, butchering proper English by replacing perfectly good words with incomprehensible slang. They apologise but explain it’s not something they would want their students to accidentally copy.

What about salaries and price as a reflection of quality? Surely you get what you pay for?

Australians have some of the highest wages in the world, which would logically make them the best performing workers in the world? Right? Well, that depends on if you have tried to source talent from other parts of the world as a point of comparison. You need to examine how the quality compares, how the cost compares, and by the mix of the two, which yields better overall value for your business.

Working alongside Filipinos as an Aussie expat for over a year, and helping Aussie SMEs set up in the Philippines has opened my eyes to how much the employment landscape is changing. People are no longer competing for jobs just with other people in a local commutable distance. Technology and globalisation has made physical proximity largely irrelevant. Salaries will no longer based on local cost of living, but the best value in the global market place.

On a global scale, Manila is rapidly becoming the back office and shared service centre of the world, much like China is for manufacturing or India is for specialised IT services. So the question is changing from not just who to hire for a role, but where to hire. The continued rapid growth of the Philippines as a labour hub and the success of Australian companies who have set up back offices in the Philippines is the best way I know to tell you what Filipinos are like.

Derek Stewart

Derek Stewart

Aussie expat helping Australian and New Zealand SMEs set up their back offices in Philippines.

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November 21, 2014
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