THE growing segment of virtual assistants (VA) in the country is picking up so much that it is becoming the de facto choice for those who (a) do not want to pursue the corporate route and (b) are looking for alternatives outside the business process outsourcing (BPO) space.
The role in itself is broad, as what the phrase virtual assistant would suggest. Simply put, it’s essentially having an assistant located at some place in the world who can do remote work for you, in whatever industry you may be in. As to what the scope of the work could be, the sky’s the limit — it can be assisting in the virtual house viewing of the real estate broker in some Midwestern area in the United States, it can be in managing day-to-day operations as a dental assistant in Sydney, the list goes on. Given that the scope can be anything, it is safe to assume the many possibilities available for those who want to explore this freelancing route. Pay-wise, it can range from anywhere between $2 per hour (for really menial tasks that are commoditized) to as high as $40 per hour and up for those skilled in niche areas.
Hence, the rise of VAs has now emerged as a significant trend in recent years, reshaping the landscape of work and outsourcing. The Philippines has its advantages in this space, such as:
Proficiency in English language
A pivotal factor propelling the growth of the VA industry in the Philippines is the country’s remarkable proficiency in the English language. According to the EF English Proficiency Index 2020, the Philippines ranked 20th out of 100 countries, attaining a “high proficiency” rating. This linguistic advantage positions Filipino VAs as valuable assets to clients worldwide, enabling seamless communication and understanding. Clients tend to favor Filipino VAs given this.
Increase in remote work opportunities
The advent of digital platforms and remote work arrangements has provided a catalyst for the growth of VAs in the Philippines. According to Global Workforce Analytics, remote work has grown by 159 percent between 2005 and 2017, a trend that has only accelerated since then. With the Covid-19 pandemic further necessitating remote work solutions, the demand for skilled VAs has surged. In fact, for those who lost their jobs during the pandemic and went to their home provinces, being a VA became a viable, realistic and more feasible option.
Technological infrastructure and digital tools
Statistics from the Department of Information and Communications Technology indicate the increasing technological infrastructure that supports the VA industry in the Philippines. With consistent growth in internet penetration and mobile phone ownership, the Philippines has positioned itself as an attractive destination for remote work. As of 2021, the country’s internet penetration rate reached 56.6 percent, creating an environment conducive to efficient virtual collaboration. In addition, most VA work requires familiarity, knowledge and competency in many productivity tools and Filipinos do not have a problem upskilling these capabilities.
We will be seeing more and more freelancing individuals in the country as we see the growth of the VA industry. Part of its appeal is also in the fact that the pay is commensurate with the effort exerted, such as having x number of clients, which also would require effective time management to ensure service delivery does not get compromised. Compare this to an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job where the pay is fixed — financial freedom from our digital natives’ point of view may be a longer route vis-a-vis freelancing. With all the drivers and trends, it is then essential to recognize the role of these factors in reshaping the nature of work in the Philippines and how organizations can align to this growing segment.
Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include food innovation, nation-building and sustainability. The author may be reached at [email protected].