Global corporate site selection strategies for back office operations such as call centers, shared service centers and technical support operations continually change as companies migrate jobs onshore, nearshore and offshore. When the economy is good, companies move jobs onshore where labor quality is the best but the costs are high. However, during challenging economic times you will find many companies shifting jobs nearshore and offshore. One way to track these location trends is by foreign direct investment (FDI) data — one of the standard methods of measuring global corporate investment. 

By definition, FDI occurs when a controlling ownership in a business enterprise in one country is made by an entity based in another country. When successful, global location trends are created and economies can experience significant diversification of their industry as evidenced by countries such as India and the Philippines where back office operations have rapidly expanded.

To help identify which countries have had the most success, Site Selection Group evaluated over 2,600 FDI projects in 80 countries to identify the top 20 countries that had the most call centers, shared service centers and technical support centers opened by foreign companies over the last 15 years. The following table provides a summary of the results.

Top 20 Countries for Foreign Direct Investment

Rank Country Total Projects # of Call Centers # of Shared Services Centers # of Technical Support Centers
1 India 416 113 166 137
2 UK 298 206 44 48
3 USA 297 194 43 60
4 Poland 167 30 109 28
5 China 135 51 25 59
6 Canada 128 90 13 25
7 Ireland 119 35 33 51
8 Philippines 115 70 31 14
9 Germany 86 39 13 34
10 Romania 85 32 31 22
11 Hungary 73 12 43 18
12 Spain 67 35 11 21
13 Malaysia 61 15 24 22
14 Australia 55 31 2 22
15 Singapore 55 16 15 24
16 Lithuania 44 9 26 9
17 Czech Republic 43 13 23 7
18 Mexico 39 18 10 11
19 Brazil 36 19 4 13
20 Costa Rica 36 16 18 2

Source: FDI Markets

Trending countries that did not make the top 20

There are many countries that did not make the top 20 list but have been gaining a lot of momentum in recent years.  Colombia, South Africa, Bulgaria, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Jamaica, to name a few. The back office sector is growing rapidly in these geographies but just doesn’t have the historic track record to break into the top 20. This can be a good opportunity for companies trying to find emerging or less saturated countries for expansion but these countries can often come with trade-offs such as lack of scalability or political instability.

Foreign direct investment results for the 80 countries

The following interactive map provides a summary of all call center, shared service center and technical support FDI activity across 80 countries over the last 15 years.

Source: FDI Markets

Conclusions

Call centers, shared service centers and technical support operations are faced with the demand for high quality talent but at a reasonable cost. As companies try to balance these demands, foreign direct investment will continue as the operations shift between onshore, nearshore and offshore geographies. FDI data is one way to help you identify these  corporate site selection trends.

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