For A 1st World Philippines, Virtual Professionals need the help of Congress

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MANILA: "The Philippines has become the call-center capital of the world," says the Los Angeles Times (Don Lee, 01 February 2015, latimes.com). 1 million Filipinos now work at call centers serving mostly American companies. All in all, the estimate is that the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in the country will bring $25 billion in revenue next year, about 10% of the economy of the Philippines.

I'm impressed; I have 2 children and 1 daughter-in-law working in call centers in Manila, and they are doing well. The problem with call centers is that you can only build so many centers in so many months in so many places. The growth is limited; it cannot be rapid.

So I'm looking at a much bigger prospect than the BPO that should bring in at least $1 trillion year after year when it takes off, what I shall refer to here as the virtual career industry, via the medium of the Internet. The growth of this industry is unlimited, because you don't need to construct office buildings – a virtual professional has a home and that is enough!

The image above is from page 80 of the new book VIRTUAL CAREERS by Jomar Hilario, with the subtitle "Earn Dollars At Home, Eliminate Daily Stress, Embrace Your Family More." The Foreword is by Bo Sanchez, a Catholic preacher who is also a blogger and writer of books and does not keep a 9-5 office routine – a virtual professional himself.

The book is a complete user's manual for those who wish to transform themselves into virtual professionals, those helping with office intellectual (not clerical) work even if they are thousands of miles away. The old term used is virtual assistant, but being a VA implies being given menial jobs and just waiting for instructions from the boss. In contrast, being a virtual pro implies being an expert who has made a career out of helping other people in other lands work out the details of their business via software and the Internet. The book particularly targets the returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) as well as those who find their office work in the Philippines conflicting with their family lives or restricting them unnecessarily.

The image above says: "Real Story: When You're Traveling Around Europe And Working At The Same Time" by Shawi Cortez, Traveling Virtual Professional. The text says:

Note: The following schedule is set in Europe, while couchsurfing (sleeping in someone else's spare room or bed for free). ¶ One of the perks of a virtual career is that you control your time. ¶ Since I began my stint as a virtual professional, I only committed to work four hours a day, five days a week. (That leaves me with a lot of free time to do errands and wander around.)

So, in fact, the virtual pro doesn't really need a home in order to work online, as she can work anywhere in the world and enjoy herself.

Shawi Cortez is not lucky – she trained. And this was under Jomar Hilario, who is also known as the Tim Ferriss of the Philippines for his work with virtual assistants and online businesses.

"Timothy 'Tim' Ferriss is an American author, entrepreneur, angel investor, and public speaker" (Wikipedia). Actually, that quote from Wikipedia does not describe him very well; now I'm going to try and describe him in only 7 words:

Tim Ferriss is a self-help genius.

He has written many self-help books, but I'm interested this time only in his first book, The 4-Hour Workweek, with its subtitle, "Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, And Join The New Rich," published in 2007. The book was a bestseller and has sold 1,350,000 copies and has been in the bestseller list of the New York Times in the last 4 years. He is a blogger; you can read him here: fourhourworkweek.com.

What Tim Ferriss calls "The 4-Hour Workweek" refers to the number of hours you only need to spend to work and get rich anyway, not working for an office but working for yourself. This is what Wikipedia says about the book:

The book asserts that technology such as email, instant messaging, and Internet-enabled PDAs complicate life rather than simplify it. It advocates hiring virtual assistants from developing countries such as India and Philippines to free up personal time.

And that brings us back to my idea of a critical mass of Filipino virtual professionals catapulting the Philippines into the 1st World. And why not? We are excellent in international English, and no other country can boast that, not even the US. But the government has to invest in this new paradigm, in this new industry.

We could afford to shell out P10 billion for the APEC meeting, so why not a similar amount of P10 billion to finance the careers of virtual professionals? If you loan out P50,000 to each one interested in becoming a virtual pro, that 10 billion can finance 200,000 individuals. If each virtual pro earns a modest $500 a month, that will bring into the country $100 million a month, or $1.2 Billion a year! If we have 1 million virtual pros, that will be $6 Billion a year. And it can only grow.

And remember, this is not a full-time job – the virtual pro is working at home, or wherever his laptop is. With the government spending on 200,000 virtual pros, this will produce a shudder of national glee, and catch the attention of the private sector who will be enticed to come out with their own virtual pro lending programs. In 2020, the Philippines will be on top of the world.

Let the current Congress work out a bill now, "An Act To Provide Financial Assistance To Virtual Professionals In The Philippines And For Other Purposes." To prepare the bills, in the Senate, I'm thinking of Senator Sonny Angara, who is Acting Chair of the Committee on Labor, Employment & Human Resources Development; at the House of Representatives, I'm thinking of Joel Roy Duavit, Representative of the 1st District of Rizal, who graduated from a postgraduate course in Computer Information Systems (magna cum laude, 2001).

The financial assistance to the virtual pro is not a dole out; it's a loan, so it will come back to the national treasury. We want to cultivate self-reliant citizens, not mendicants.

Right now, Senator Angara and Representative Duavit can move Heaven and Congress to pass a virtual pro assistance law to encourage more Filipinos to turn themselves into professionals working at home and not rely on overseas work or compete with others, or the traffic, for employment here. The virtual pro assistance law will then become the national engine of growth, and the Philippines will have reinvented the employment game among nations.

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