U.S. elections bring risks for overseas workers, call centers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — A change in leadership in the United States could mark a shift in its trade and investment policies, a credit rater has warned.

This has significant implications for the Philippines, particularly for its overseas Filipino workers and its business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

"Trade has been a key focus of the US election campaign. [Related policy measures] could be material for other sovereigns," Moody's said in a report on Friday.

The credit rater said the next president could encourage onshoring — "the repatriation of jobs at overseas-based suppliers back to the U.S."

There could also be a renewed focus on domestic production "in response to claims that increased openness to trade has led to job losses in some sectors and regions of the U.S."

The U.S. elects its new leaders on November 8. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is facing off against Republican nominee Donald Trump for the presidency of the world's largest economy.

Trump has promised to strictly enforce immigration laws at the border and the workplace, even send illegal immigrants home. Clinton, on the other hand, has backed naturalising more eligible immigrants.

Both Clinton and Trump have decried the damage outsourcing has caused to the U.S. economy. They promised to get tough on companies who send jobs abroad.

The Philippines, along with India, is one of the top outsourcing destinations in the world, with its cheap labor costs and its strong English-speaking population.

"India and the Philippines would be most vulnerable if the U.S. imposed higher tariffs or tightened rules on outsourcing, given that their service revenues are more concentrated in information technology and telecommunications, some of which could, in principle, be sourced from the U.S.," Moody's said.

The BPO industry brought in $22 billion in revenues and employed more than 1 million people in the Philippines last year.

The Philippines is also the largest recipient of remittances from the US, accounting for as much as 3.3% of the total economy.

Overseas Filpinos sent home money worth nearly $26 billion in 2015. The U.S. accounted for more than $8 billion of that total.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco, Jr. said there was nothing the Philippines could do to change U.S. policy, but the government was working to make the economy resilient to any shocks.

This includes training people for jobs beyond the BPO industry — such as in tourism and manufacturing — as well as luring other markets to relocate to the Philippines, Tetangco said in a text message.

BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo was also hopeful the U.S. wouldn't take on those policies, claiming it would do more harm than good to its own economy.

"The U.S. itself will suffer from an ageing and expensive labor force rather than benefit from open and dynamic immigration rules that have been quite tight all these years anyway," Guinigundo said in a separate message.

Outsourcing also helps American companies ride out slumps in the U.S. economy and enhances their competitiveness during good times, he added.