The Provider View
Antonio Moreira is CEO North America for Stefanini, a global services company founded in Brazil (and US-incorporated since 2001) with offices in 16 countries worldwide. Outsource spoke with Antonio to get a provider’s perspective on the immigration question…
outsource: Antonio, to what extent do you see an upsurge in anti-immigration and protectionist sentiment in major western economies having negative implications for the global outsourcing space, and why?
Antonio Moreira: Anti-immigration and protectionist sentiments are strengthened by the economic downturn when citizens feel their jobs and livelihood may be at risk. During times of economic prosperity, these sentiments may be dulled, or even considered inconsequential. However, as long as job security remains an issue, protectionism remains relevant. In terms of global outsourcing, this means that outsourcing may be viewed in a negative light: people [and] companies could have fears that outsourcing will be bad for business, but educating people and businesses about the benefits of outsourcing could reverse these feelings.
By reinforcing these benefits – outsourcing’s role in freeing business to focus upon more strategic business development initiatives and providing other critical IT support that may be necessary for an organisation’s success – we can help broaden the view beyond more immediate negative reactions. There is an increasing appreciation for the positive impact of outsourcing, and for this reason I do not believe that the outsourcing business will suffer because of these negative sentiments. However, it’s important that we continue to work to educate the general population in the face of the concerns driven by economic and business challenges.
O: In your opinion how far can western governments reconcile their electorates’ demands for protectionist policies with the requirement for public-sector efficiencies potentially delivered by outsourcing providers?
AM: It is important that the public fully understands both sides of this issue – including the positive impact outsourcing can have on the success of businesses. Governments need to engage not only outsourcing firms, but more importantly members of the business community who can substantiate the benefits of outsourcing on businesses and the communities they serve, creating and securing jobs. Efforts can be launched – by governments, outsourcers and businesses – to educate the public, with promotional materials that reinforce the important role of outsourcing, providing real-world examples of business success and job creation.
O: The debate actually involves at least two distinct issues of concern to the electorate: immigration, and offshoring. Do you think these two issues have been intentionally conflated by pro-protectionist commentators and how can the outsourcing community address these concerns?
AM: These issues, especially immigration, will always be part of the political and social discussion of any industrialised country. While these issues may take up much of the discourse in relation to jobs in the current climate, it’s only a matter of time before the rhetoric involving the issues begins to wane. The outsourcing community could address these concerns by demonstrating how outsourcers both save and create jobs. The challenge lies with the message: while many are quick to defame outsourcing and label it as a detriment to jobs, outsourcers actually play an important role in enabling cost-savings from operational efficiencies and allowing companies to spend their capital in other areas. It is also important to note that when jobs are cut in one area, they are usually created in another – where one position can be condensed to one provider, that one position can in effect create two more jobs in another division.
O: How are outsourcing providers getting around existing restrictions on immigration? Are these methods involving extra cost and if so how is this being passed onto clients?
AM: As the CEO of North American operations for Stefanini, I don’t see these restrictions creating too great a challenge for our company. I believe that to be a successful provider, there must be a delicate balance in order to provide customers with quality professionals. This is the crux of outsourcing, whether sourcing onshore or off. Outsourcing providers must be clear and transparent in their methods and, if they do incur extra costs for employees, must make sure these employees are of a high quality and a good match for the client.
O: How successful have outsource providers been in making their case against limitations on immigration? Do you expect this to change over the next year or two?
AM: I can’t speak for our competitors, but this has never been an issue with Stefanini. We always aim to provide options like onshore services and professionals for our clients in the US. We only resort to bringing in professionals from outside the US if we cannot find the right match for the project onshore. I believe that other providers follow the same pattern, since this is the most cost-effective and efficient way to operate. However, I don’t foresee immigration restrictions now or in the future to have anymore than a minimal effect of outsourcing.
There are currently nearly 40 million first-generation immigrants living in the US. (Source: Office of Immigration Statistics)