Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Expat Outsourcing: The Next India?

For years, thousands of North Americans and Europeans have chosen to live as expatriates in foreign countries. These "expats" pursue a new life in a foreign country for many reasons, from the thrill of experiencing a new culture to the ability to live more cheaply.

A recent article in the Argentine newspaper, La Nacion, discusses the phenomenon of foreigners relocating -- in many cases permanently -- to Argentina. Many North Americans and Europeans have come to Argentina since the peso devaluation in 2001 to live comfortably on their savings, start businesses at a fraction of the cost, invest in property, and in some cases, continue to work in their respective fields as "global freelancers." This sudden interest in Argentina, as well as other Latin America countries, isn't surprising considering the current economic problems in the "First World."

Today, almost every company participates in some form of outsourcing, loosely defined by Wikipedia as "contracting out a work function to an external third party which was previously done in-house." While there is a tendency to associate outsourcing with Indian Call Centers, more and more global companies are beginning to take advantage of the cheap "globally mobile workforce," made-up largely of US and European expats. This group of graphic designers, programmers, consultants, and lawyers (to name a few), have settled in countries throughout South America and are working as freelancers at a fraction of the cost than what they would charge in their home countries. The reason? The majority are living in lower-cost of living countries and can afford to charge clients much less while still earning an excellent wage by local standards. Where can you find an experienced New York corporate attorney that was charging $300US/hr but is now billing US corporate clients $65US/hr? Try Argentina.

So the question is, will more companies seek out these skilled global expats for their services at a fraction of the price? If so, then will "Expat Outsourcing" become the next India?