Due to the widespread high-level English language skills and the relatively low wages, Filipino workers are the first choice for remote workers on blockchain projects worldwide. But is industry taking advantage of these workers, or did remote working help the country grow and develop during the pandemic?
If you’ve ever reached out to customer support about a crypto exchange, chances are you’ve spoken to a Filipino representative. They are highly valued by crypto projects for their strong command of English, their friendly and polite behavior – and let’s face it: dirt cheap wages.
Many project managers struggle with the ethic of paying Filipino employees a relative amount in order to save overheads. Is it fair that a blockchain developer in the Philippines would get $ 10,000 for work similar to a blockchain developer in Australia for $ 70,000?
It’s a complicated moral question and there are no easy answers, but many Filipinos believe there are benefits on both sides. Mike Mislos, founder of the local Bitpinas Crypto News website, says people he knows appreciate the opportunity because international companies pay far higher wages than most Filipinos could otherwise earn.
“If someone gets $ 1,000 a month for development work, even though that’s less than what a junior developer gets in the US, it’s still way higher than the average base salary here,” he says.
An entire industry called Business Process Outsourcing has emerged to take advantage of the almost unique mix of labor availability, cost, English proficiency and cultural affinity in the Philippines. It is the second largest economic factor in the country with annual sales of USD 25 billion and employment of 1.2 million people.
A particular set of historical circumstances led to this point. Formerly a colony of the United States, the people are eternally grateful that General MacArthur kept his promise to free them from Japanese occupation during World War II. To date, Filipinos are more pro-American than even Americans. Daily life is a mix of Eastern and Western cultures, and almost everyone speaks English, except in small rural villages.
The BPO industry began to flourish in the 1990s. Foreign companies started setting up call centers and now comprise eight subsectors including back offices, software development, game development and construction design. In decentralized blockchain projects, agencies like Cloudstaff take care of the procurement of employees, payment and handling of local documents on site. This means that all projects have to take care of the real work.
Leah Callon-Butler was formerly Chief Marketing Officer for an international crypto project and has lived in Clark (a few hours outside of Manila) since August 2018, when she worked with the six-member Filipino team on the project for a month.
“We never met her,” she explains. “The Filipino developers were working on fairly simple coding materials, but they really wanted to dig their teeth into the blockchain content.” She adds, “We just wanted to spend some time with them and help them mentor, train and educate them. And we just fell in love with the place. “
A question of cost
Callon-Butler admits that the project’s decision to hire developers through CloudStaff was due to cost. The project’s ICO was completely undermined by the crypto winter in early 2018. “We couldn’t afford a team of six in Australia or Europe, but we could in the Philippines,” she says.
“It bothered me: is that exploitative? But you come here and find that the people who work for CloudStaff, for example, are the growing middle class with all this brand new purchasing power that didn’t exist before. “She adds:
“When you see the difference in purchasing power, it’s like, ‘Yes, they make a lot, a lot less than an Australian salary.’ But it also costs a lot, a lot less to live here.”
For example, an inexpensive meal at a restaurant or even a McMeal at McDonalds costs around $ 3, and a one-bedroom apartment is available for rent under $ 200 a month.
She explained that Intimate.io’s chief Filipino developer had enough left over from his wages to buy two brand new cars within a year, one for him and the other for his parents:
We said, ‘Wow. That’s pretty generous. “And he said,” Well, they sold their family car to take me to university. “And then when he got that high paying job and his career rose, he bought them a brand. new car to say ‘thank you mom and dad’. “
Pandemic promotes remote work
The BPO industry has also proven invaluable to some Filipinos who were forced to work from home during the pandemic, explains Mark Anthony “Tony” Echem, 35. He lives in Cagayan de Oro and works remotely as a Office manager for the Australian crypto trading educational institution Dealer Cobbafter previously working for Australian telecommunications company Telstra.
He says he and his wife “appreciate that we were in the right position to work from home because many people are actually still adjusting to this type of facility. But we’ve had this advantage since we’ve been doing it for a long time. “He continues:
“In the past, I would say, five years ago more people worked at home before the epidemic started. In my circle of friends, almost 50% would already work from home.”
“Interest has definitely grown over the past few months, especially due to this pandemic, because people are at home and want to learn how to earn other sources of income,” he says.
It wasn’t all smooth, however, with living conditions for many employees in the BPO industry not suitable for remote work due to overcrowding and noise pollution. The internet infrastructure is also shaky and ranks 63rd out of 100 countries in the 2020 Inclusive Internet Index.
Raise NFT creatures for fun and profit
One surprising development in remote earning during the pandemic was an increase in Filipino residents to earn Multiples of the minimum wage in the CryptoKitties-style NFT-based blockchain game Axie Infinity.
The most dedicated players can earn up to 10,000 pesos a week by raising Axies and earning SLP tokens from their cell phone. The Philippines’ Blockchain Space has even launched an “Axie Academy” to encourage the locals to “play for money”.
“It’s kind of a start during the pandemic because most of the people in the Philippines have cell phones,” explains Callon-Butler:
“There have been some players who wanted to breed their Axies but didn’t bother to play the game and fight all the fights. So a secondary market was created with all of these Filipinos stuck at home with no income and no Stuck without further action (job found). It was kind of a lifesaver where there was no other way for people to make money. “
The SLP tokens were traded on Uniswap, which means that all Filipino players were thrown 400 UNI tokens out of the air – for some more than half a year. “The Uniswap thing put you in like the highest-earning percentile in the provinces, an extremely rich person,” she says. “All of a sudden, word got around that people had not only found a way to make money, but a way to make serious money in the Philippines.”
Remote developers help with development
The chance to earn relatively decent wages while working remotely can also help reverse the brain drain where millions of young Filipinos travel overseas to make money send back to their families. In addition, remote working helps support rapid economic growth that lasted until the pandemic and Reset GDP by 9.5%had averaged 6.4% growth per year over the past ten years.
Callon-Butler says she has seen firsthand the positive impact on society. “Cool coffee shops and bars, and trendy restaurants and malls, are emerging in response to this growing middle class who suddenly have all this disposable income,” she says. “So it is amazing to see how much this international flow of capital literally changes the path of life when hiring these offshore workers.”
For Echem, the opportunities that a decentralized workforce has opened up in the country could help the Philippines reach its full potential in his life. “We are for the time being a third world country,” he says, adding:
“I really believe that we are positioning ourselves as a country to at least become the first world before my generation ends.” I’m very optimistic about the progress we’ve made. “