French companies give in to the temptation of “white collar” telemigration

Some experts believe that the rise of teleworking and the search for cost savings for companies can amplify the phenomenon of “white collar telemigration».

Yes the “telework“Has become, Covid obliges, a common everyday word, the notion of”telemigrationIs much less. This term, used to talk about the virtual relocation of certain jobs, is however gaining ground. Telework but in another country. For economist Marcos Carias, co-author of the Coface study on the risks and opportunities of virtual offshoring, the pandemic has indeed demonstrated that it is possible to carry out part of the service professions by permanent teleworking, exhibiting more naturally these to a possible relocation.

If telemigration remains difficult to quantify for the time being, it is clear that some companies have already taken the plunge. Thus, the departure plan announced a few months ago from the Natixis bank involved the relocation of 209 support service positions in Portugal – when the CFDT union alerted on the plan to lay off the Carrier Transicold site (leader of refrigeration units) in Franqueville. -Saint-Pierre which provided for the relocation of 18 accounting positions in the Czech Republic.

Amplified by the Covid pandemic and the rise of teleworking, offshoring has taken a new turn. After being confined to the production of goods, it has become virtual.

In his book The Globotics Upheaval published in 2019, the American economist Richard Baldwin announces the color from the first pages: “Telemigrants are ushering in a new era of globalization. In the years to come, they will bring with them the advantages and disadvantages of international competitiveness affecting millions of American and European white-collar workers in the service sector.“. That is what is said. Before the pandemic and the meteoric rise in the use of teleworking, the author decides on a new form of relocation which now targets middle and senior managers more than blue-collar jobs in developed countries.

“The Covid has been able to accelerate the relocation of more qualified professions, in particular accounting and digital services professions. “

Cécile Jolly, economist at France Stratégie

Remote working in lower-cost countries is advocated by employers who are wondering about savings and who are ready to give in to the temptation of “telemigration”.

«The more an economy is based on skilled service activities, the more likely its workforce is to work remotely“, Reports the study Coface. According to the report, it is in positions with a high cost per worker that the potential for teleworking abroad is most interesting. Coface estimates the savings in labor costs for companies at nearly 7% if a quarter of teleworking jobs were relocated to low-cost countries.

If it had already started, this virtual relocation has grown. “The Covid has been able to accelerate the relocation of more qualified professions, in particular accounting and digital services professions», Underlines Cécile Jolly, economist at France Stratégie. Already put into practice by large groups with advanced digital knowledge, as in the consulting and finance sectors, offshoring is no longer reserved only for large companies.. We thus speak of the relocation of jobs “back-office», That is to say not requiring physical interactions. Among the sectors that use these trades, more easily teleworked, are at the top of the list: banking and insurance, IT, consulting or even transport and logistics.

Percentage of teleworkable jobs by sector, in France, according to Coface Le Figaro with Datawrapper

Virtual relocation and its consequences on employment can cause concern, but this telemigration has its limits. “There are cultural barriers that cannot be removed», Recalls the economist Cécile Jolly. While offshoring affects services more, the latter necessarily imply personalization. In addition to cultural barriers, it is therefore necessary for the economist to take into account legal and linguistic particularities. “The fundamental logic is that certain professions are impossible to exercise without physical contact, such as events for example“, Recalls economist Marcos Carias. “If technologies allow some to offload certain administrative or financial tasks, the extra soul remains essential», Insists Cécile Jolly. For many tasks, human interaction is essential and cannot be done on the other side of the planet through a screen.

This relocation also contributes to the development of professions. “We are changing the way of producing services. Freelance has changed that too.»A vision shared by Marcos Carias who speaks of a change in the nature of certain jobs, such as a human resources position whose administrative tasks would be more exposed to telemigration or automation, while part of the position will be able to concentrate on tasks requiring human interactions.

«Gradually we can find ourselves in a situation with a mixed labor force»Explains the Coface economist. “For the same business or service, the functions could be redefined in order to concentrate the tasks that can be virtually offshored from a low-cost country and the rest, face-to-face».

An evolution that will take time. In unison, Marcos Carias and Cécile Jolly insist on a real phenomenon, but “effects that will not be visible overnight».

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