Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic is a vital hub of BPO service provision in the Nearshore region. The presence of major companies marks this fact; Teleperformance, Acquire BPO, Convergys, and Concentrix are among those utilizing the talents of the country’s strong English speaking workforce.
The country is unique in the Caribbean as being the only Spanish-speaking nation with a sizable bilingual BPO talent pool, and the capital provides the majority of that human talent.
In the last 30 years, the Dominican Republic has weaned itself from its former heavy reliance on agriculture and exportation of sugar, coffee and tobacco, and the service sector is now booming. Smaller local players have also sprouted up across the county, and specifically in Santo Domingo, filling the gaps of niche BPO expertise, including medical and legal services.
The cultural understanding of the US is high; Chris Anderson, Executive Vice President at Vixicom, previously told Nearshore Americas that the workforce has “a great handle on slang and dialect”, as is the economy’s reliance on the US with some 50% of exports being delivered to the US.
“Before Covid-19 hourly wages for agents began at US$2.45 and went to US$3.63 depending on experience. But now, starting rates are around US$2.72 up to US$4.54.” — Nearshore Americas source
Free-trade zones have helped drive interest from both international and local players to establish businesses, and though the usual external concerns for organizations in the Caribbean remain, hurricanes being a primary worry, interest in the country and its capital has continued to grow. Whispers of saturation have begun.
Yet it’s a young city. According to The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), some 890,000 inhabitants are between the ages of 15 and 29, while a further 1 million from a total of 3.1 million, are between 30 and 59. While interest in the DR as a Nearshore hub have certainly increased, the 5-million-strong working population should allay saturation fears for now.
For now, however, companies are able to continue the price point that the Dominican Republic peso provides dollar-based companies. Nearshore Americas spoke with two sources (who preferred to remain unnamed) who are in the Santo Domingo BPO industry representing both international and local companies. One source is an operations supervisor and the other a recruitment director.
Wage Rates in Santo Domingo
According to one source, salaries within the BPO industry have recently gone up across the board due to the pandemic. Efforts to retain companies in the midst of greater industry competition and the revival of tourism, one of the city’s major economic activities, have seen wages climb.
“Before Covid-19 hourly wages for agents began at 135 DOP (US$2.45) and went to 200 DOP (US$3.63) depending on level of experience. But now, starting rates are around 150 DOP (US$2.72) up to 250 DOP (US$4.54),” said the operations leader.
While most entrant agents are paid only for the hours they work and do not receive a salary, salaried positions are available one step up the ladder.
“Standard wages for team supervisors are between 40,000 DOP (approx. US$725) and 50,000 DOP (approx. US$908) per month,” the source added.
“I often see that X, Y or Z call center has published a date for the wholesale return to the office, and hundreds of people respond saying they’ll quit when they’re asked to go back to site.” — Nearshore Americas source
These figures stack up against figures suggested by the second source, the recruitment director. However, the second source mentioned that in niche BPOs it is common for agents to be split between providing service for the niche vertical, like health, legal or financial, or more general verticals that need lesser levels of expertise. Wages will change accordingly.
“Senior team supervisors are given a 5,000 DOP bump on the team supervisor rate,” said the second source.
“After this, comes the operations manager position. If this is an internal hire, ranges tend to be between 60,000 DOP (approx. US$1,090) and 80,000 DOP (approx US$1,453) monthly. However, if it’s an external hire, they’re usually paid a higher wage as that’s what it costs to bring new people in. They might start at 80,000 DOP right off the bat,” they added.
Wages are paid fortnightly, and in addition to the flat salary there are performance bonuses. One source said that their company pays performance bonuses of up to 20% of base salary, while the other said that in their company pays a flat-rate of up to 20 DOP extra per hour “if metrics are met.”
Signing bonuses are a common feature of the BPO onboarding process in Santo Domingo, and companies often differentiate themselves in a tightening labor market through additional support to workers with education costs. Increased salaries for unsociable hours are paid (a 15% hourly increase was commonly cited), and transport is frequently provided within city limits after 9 p.m. until 8 a.m.
Changes Afoot in Santo Domingo
The Dominican Republic is one of many nations chewing over the decision to offer companies located in free trade zones the ability to keep at least a portion of their workers working from home. Recently, the government of the Philippines, the world’s largest BPO market, decided to end the remote work arrangement for companies in special economic zones. One source, the recruitment director, is concerned of the impact a decision to send workers back to the office will have on retention.
“I’m very active on social media groups within the industry. I often see that X, Y or Z call center has published a date for the wholesale return to the office, and hundreds of people respond saying they’ll quit when they’re asked to go back to site. They’ll just look for another Work From Home position,” they said.
To add further stress to the city’s decision-makers is the existential threat of inflation. Prices focused around housing, food and transport rose 8.7% in January of this year, after a rise of 8.5% in December 2021. According to Focus Economics, inflation should ease during the rest of the year, but for industry workers, personal purse strings have been tightened.
“The DR is not the exception to global inflation. Prices for pretty much everything have risen, while salaries have remained around the same rates as they were about three or four years ago,” said the operations manager.