A total of 3,300 employees in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector have regained their jobs, which were lost as a result of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This was disclosed by Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Daryl Vaz, in his contribution to the 2020/21 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (June 23).
Mr. Vaz said he is hopeful that the remaining 3,700 jobs that were lost can be recovered by the end of the financial year.
“The sector lost approximately US$42 million in revenue due to the COVID restrictions. Following the increase in cases due to an outbreak, a decision was taken to close all call centres on April 22, 2020. Despite this, we managed to retain more than 33,000 workers in the sector and are moving to see how best we can retrieve [the] jobs [that were lost] due to the measures imposed to curb the spread of the virus,” he said.
Mr. Vaz further pointed out that in aiding the recovery of the sector, the Government has already extended the work-from-home arrangements for approximately 40 per cent of the call centre agents for three months, which will end on August 31, 2020.
In the meantime, the Minister noted that the BPO Task Force, which he chairs, approved new protocols developed by the Ministry of Health and Wellness that will govern operations within the sector going forward.
“They include measures related to sanitary and hygiene practices, which must be adhered to at all facilities; furnishings and equipment, social distancing, risk reduction, transportation, ventilation, the handling of persons who are ill, the wearing of masks, among others,” he said.
He noted, as well, that inspections are undertaken by public health inspectors using the BPO Inspection Tool and the Public Health Institutional Health Inspection Form that have been developed with a view to minimising the risk of transmission.
Turning to the growth trajectory for the sector, Mr. Vaz noted that pre-COVID, an increase of 5,000 to 6,000 jobs each year was predicted.
“It has been highlighted that we can experience a return to this trajectory if the conditions such as training, promotion, policy and health guidelines are adhered to, and if we work to secure new business and/or scale up existing businesses,” he said.
Mr. Vaz said it is anticipated that the sector will rebound by the end of the 2021 fiscal year, “with a move towards the original projection of 50,000 jobs by March 2022”.
“The Global Services Association of Jamaica (GSAJ) has noted, however, that growth will be contingent upon the recovery of the United States, which is our main market. There is a proposal for about 20 to 30 per cent of the Global Services Sector (GSS) workforce to be supported in a virtual Special Economic Zone,” the Minister noted.
“A specific proposal is expected to be advanced by the Association for this development, and the Government remains open to these discussions with a view to coming up with an agreed position,” he said.