Poland's outsourcing industry hits 100,000 jobs milestone, defying economic gloom

The number of Polish jobs in the business services industry is set to continue its climb, despite a downbeat economic prognosis in the country and challenges from lower-wage countries in the EU.

Even when the economic crisis is starting to get Poland in a stranglehold as well, the outsourcing industry is still creating jobs in the country.

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Nonetheless, the business services industry is under threat from the lower-waged, newer countries of the EU, according to Poland's Association of Business Service Leaders (ABSL).

The ABSL, which represents 55 major outsourcing companies, has said the number of service centres in Poland, which include business processing outsourcing (BPO) services and other technology-related centres, has risen from 337 last year to 375 this year. At the start of December, the number of people working in the business services industry hit 100,000 for the first time, and that number is forecast to increase by another 15,000 to 20,000 in the coming year – making the segment the fastest growing in terms of jobs within the Polish economy.

Poland is by far the largest market for outsourcing services in Eastern Europe. Almost one half of new outsourcing jobs have been created there, with the rest coming from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. The last two countries are probably the most likely to start nipping at Poland's heals, as wages there are 10 to 15 percent lower than in Poland.

"That risk will always exist," Marek Grodzinski, vice chairman of the ABSL and director of Capgemini's Polish BPO centre, told the Polish broadsheet Rzeczpospolita. "That's why we should concentrate on opening centres that are focused on the expertise of the workforce."

Not that Poland is expensive, at least compared to Western Europe. A junior accountant can count on around €600 per month, while a starting R&D technician would be able to get €750. In other parts of Europe, people with the same qualifications would be able to earn at least one and a half times that salary.

The question remains whether the business services sector can bolster the Polish labour market enough for the country's economists to be optimistic. Unemployment has already risen to around 13 percent, while the economic prognosis for 2013 remains bleak.