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PwC: The competitive advantages of Romania are language, soft and technical skills

The Romanian SSC & BPO market is mature, offering a high range of capabilities and a large pool of skilled employees, says Francesca Postolache, partner, Audit Services, PwC Romania.

2015-10-23 13:06:12

Romania SSC/BPO market started to develop in the early 2000s, covering the traditional functions for IT, F&A and call centres. Bucharest and Timisoara, benefitting from large university centres and strategic locations, were the first preferred options for SSC/ BPO. After 2006, other locations started to be targeted as well, to leverage the first-mover advantage and lower labour costs. The SSC-BPO market employs between 20-30,000 staff and is expected to grow with 20-30 per cent over the next three years, shifting from transactional processes to value-added activities (e.g. R&D, talent management, engineering).

According to Francesca Postolache, partner, Audit Services at PwC, Romania is the second largest talent pool in the CEE, with over 120,000 graduates per year, main university centres of the country being the SSC/ BPO hubs, providing a qualified labour pool.

„Romania has over 100 universities with more than 450,000 students mainly in the IT and Engineering (approx.140,000 students) and Economic fields (approx. 90,000 students),” said Postolache.

„All university graduates are required to master at least one foreign language. For business degrees two languages are needed. The Romanian workforce is highly receptive to typical Western corporate values and possesses a high degree of cultural understanding. Current salary levels and future salary trends are highly competitive compared to neighbouring countries.”

The language skills available on the Romanian market have been one of the first attraction points for investments in SSC-BPO. Around 90 per cent of educated Romanians speak at least one foreign language, 25 per cent of Romanians speak at least two foreign languages and four per cent of Romanians speak more than three foreign languages.

„Romanians are internationally known for their high aptitude in speaking European languages: primarily English, followed by French, Italian, Spanish and German English is now spoken by eight million Romanians; French by 4.5 million; German, Italian and Spanish, 1.5-2.5 million,” said Postolache. „In the eastern part of Romania there is a high density of Russian speakers, but there is also significant availability of Russian in Bucharest, through the Moldavian students coming for studies here. However, there is limited availability of more exotic languages, like Czech, Slovak and Nordic languages, which can be found only in small areas in the western part of the country, and usually not at business proficiency levels,” she added.

Regarding taxes, besides the VAT return, which is sometimes a difficult objective to achieve due to the higher than 45-day interval of reimbursement, another fiscal law specifies that the salaries generated from activities of software development and sales are exempt from taxes, up to the level of 10,000 USD. „Another significant cost within the P&L indicator are the costs with the rents, which, for the companies in the BOP and SSC fields represent a large share due to the large spaces these companies are renting,” said Postolache.

„Also, the Government introduced a new state-aid scheme starting 1 July 2014, which could bring a significant financial incentive for setting up the SSC in Romania. The new state-aid scheme provides for co-financing of salary costs incurred by the employer for the new jobs created if certain conditions are met. The application should be supported by a business plan which will also demonstrate the incentive effect of the state aid, an investment plan, a hiring plan and a number of administrative documents (the qualitative and quantitative indicators required for qualification),” Postolache concluded.


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