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Deaths attributed to Typhoon Haiyan have gone up to 5,200 and destruction to property is estimated at around $212 million but the Philippines’ business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, which serves companies around the globe including those in Canada, has emerged largely unharmed according to a technology research firm.

Frances Karamouzis, research vice president at Gartner Inc. acknowledged that the devastation wrought by the super typhoon which ripped across the central part of the country has been extensive but the Philippine’s $16 billion IT and customer management business escaped unscathed.

Loss of life and property damage is not the main issues in the outsourcing industry, the analyst said.

“The main issues are absenteeism due to family issues of volunteer work and also intermittent power grid issues,” Karamouzis said in an interview with online technology publication Networkworld.com.

From employing just 2,000 workers and making about $24 million in 2000, the Philippine BPO industry has grown to the country’s largest new source of revenue bringing in more than $16 billion and providing work to over 600,000 people today.

Off shore BPO provides a viable alternative to many Canadian companies. Telecommunications firm Telus for example, employs some 8,000 workers in its call centre and tech support facilities in the Philippines.

Financial companies like Manulife and Sun Life also operate call centres in the country.

Bombardier Transportation operates a shared services operation in the central province of Cebu, the country’s second largest outsourcing hub which was close to the path of Haiyan and took an indirect hit when the typhoon struck.

Cebu accounts for 15 per cent of the BPO industry. Some 95,000 people in the province are working in the BPO industry, according to the Cebu Investment Promotion Centre. Seventeen new outsourcing offices opened in the province last year.

U.S-based Cognizant Technology Solutions has a facility in Cebu. It reported no loss of life or major issues due to the typhoon but said there have been some employee absenteeism as “people are understandably checking on their families and helping in relief efforts,” said Karamouzis.

Other companies that operate BPO facilities in the Philippines include: IBM; Cisco; HP; Dell; Oracle; Capgemini; Infosys; and Accenture which is the biggest employer with some 35,000 workers.

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