How a $500/mo salary supports decent living standards in the Philippines

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UPDATE: COVID-19 is forcing companies to review their traditional staffing options.  Read our dedicated COVID-19 articles here: COVID-19 Business Recovery Action Plan

Outsourcing work to the Philippines is always an excellent option for small to mid-sized companies that aim to get the most bang out of their buck. The country’s low labor cost is always a point of interest for people who are looking to expand their operations. A reasonable outsourcing/BPO salary is now around $500-$600 per month

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Compared to professionals based in developed countries like the USA and UK, professionals in the Philippines earn a much lower annual salary — sometimes even 70% to 90% less — despite having the same responsibilities. That may sound like it’s a bad thing, but it’s not; it’s actually a win-win situation for both the company and the outsourced labor force.

It’s only natural to wonder why a competitive workforce that’s fluent in English can be hired for pennies on the dollar. Rest assured, this is not because of exploitation or modern-day slavery. These reprehensible acts are still practised in many places around the globe, but the BPO industry in the Philippines has taken a solid stance against these and actively supports practices that will provide employees with good working conditions and decent wages.

Note: A recent report from the World Trade Organization (WTO) highlighted the contribution of the BPO sector in the Philippines that brings economic prosperity to the people. The report stated that the BPO sector has accounted for the 7.3% GDP growth of the country and has employed about 1.3 million workers in 2019 alone. 

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The average salary in the Philippines

Based on the data by Indeed.com, the following are the average monthly salary of workers in the Philippines. The data varies depending on the position or level of employment.

RolesMonthly Salary (in PHP)Monthly Salary (in USD)
Maintenance and cleaning crewPHP 8,420$166
Service personnel (driver, cashier)PHP 12,885$253
Office clerk (entry-level)PHP 15,686$308
Security guardPHP 17,174$338
Construction workerPHP 18,824$370
TeachersPHP 18,998$373
BPO employeesPHP 25,519$500
Licensed Professionals*PHP 45,423+$893+

There are many reasons why employers can afford to pay out—and employees in the Philippines can sufficiently live with— a salary that is the equivalent of USD 500 per month. Here are a few to begin with:

Philippines’ low cost of living

A developing nation in the Southeast Asian region, the Philippines has one of the lowest cost of living among its neighbours. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority or PSA, a family of 5 needs at least PHP 8,778 a month or the equivalent of USD 168 to meet their most basic food and non-food needs.

This information was gathered in 2015, but it can still apply to the present day. This means that for the average Filipino family, it can be possible to live comfortably month by month at USD 500. 

In another 2015 survey conducted by the PSA, it was revealed that a Filipino family typically spends USD 4,150 per year or USD 345 every month. In comparison, the minimum wage in the country is equivalent to more than USD 9 per day or around USD 207 per 21-day work month, which isn’t exactly enough compared to the average annual family spending.

However, it should be noted that a large majority of the jobs offered in the BPO industry pay above the minimum wage and provide employees with health benefits and various allowances. The decent starting salary afforded by a job in the industry is enough to give workers peace of mind, allow them to save up money for emergencies and for investments, and pursue hobbies and interests.

A strong sense of family

Filipinos value family. Children are expected to live with their parents until they get married, and it’s not unusual to see multiple generations of a family living under the same roof. Upon graduation, children are expected to help support the rest of the family and care for their parents after they have retired.

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The high value that an individual places on the family plays a crucial role in the workplace. The need to ease the financial burden of the family motivates most employees to keep their job and perform well. 

The Philippines generally is a very happy and festive country with a strong sense of family and community.  This is demonstrated by the number of Philippine holidays, national and local festivities and also the government mandated 13th month bonus (paid just before Christmas), which all employees receive.

A big influx of young workers every year

After graduating, Filipino students immediately seek employment as soon as possible to support their families. This ensures a yearly influx of 500,000 fresh graduates who are willing to join the workforce, many of whom have received training in the field of information technology and communication.

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The national government, in coordination with BPO industry stakeholders and educational institutions, has continually pushed universities and colleges to offer courses that will prepare students for a career in BPO. In addition, many educational institutions also offer affordable short term courses for those who want to work in the industry but don’t have the means to pursue a 4- or 5-year college degree.

At the end of every school year, many graduates and certificate holders alike apply to BPO companies, particularly those that are based in cities. Some companies based in more rural areas may be a little pressed to expand their workforce, but the intensive educational and skills training programs offered by the government and various BPO organizations in these areas may just change that scenario in the next few years.

Fear of poverty

A developing country will always have some form of rampant poverty present within its borders, and the Philippines is no exception. With nearly 10 million families in the country considering themselves poor, it’s a serious problem.

Despite this – or perhaps, because of it – Filipino workers work hard. To escape from poverty, to provide their families with essentials, and to afford their siblings the chance to make something better for themselves, they apply themselves to their work.

Of course, there are also driven individuals in the workforce who wish to advance in their careers and be recognized for their talents and the effort they put into improving their skills and making their processes more efficient.

This mindset comes into play when they gladly accept the workload that’s been given to them without complaint or sass. They keep their eyes on the prize even if the work is challenging, repetitive, or stressful – and this is true with many outsourced business processes, such as technical or customer support.

A USD $500 salary for the Filipino BPO employee is NOT slavery

For a Filipino worker, a USD 500 monthly salary is not slavery. Depending on the job at hand, of course, it can be a pretty decent amount that is enough to sustain a good way of life and afford more than the essential needs of a family.

This amount is a far cry from the monthly minimum wage of USD 168, which some people argue can be too small to provide a family with nutritious food and cover rent, transportation, utilities, and school and other expenses within the same span of time.

A USD 500 salary is almost double the amount of the monthly minimum, enough to ensure that a household has sufficient funds to cover its needs and then some.

The extra money that doesn’t go toward paying the expenses can be put in a savings account. It can even be used in furthering the employee’s education, turning them into another asset for the company and giving them a better chance to improve their lives.

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Massive influx of young workers every year

How does an average Filipino household spend money?

A 2015 PSA survey provides a brief but valuable insight as to how families spend the money they earn every year. The highest earners and spenders are families based in the National Capital Region, which earn USD 8,209 and spend USD 6,219 on the average every year.

This is followed by families based in the Cordillera Administrative Region, which earn and spend an average of USD 5,447 and USD 3,921 every year. The lowest earners and spenders are based in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. They take home a total of USD 2,685 and spend USD 1,719 annually.

According to the survey, 41.9% of the money goes to food, 12.19% goes to house rental, 7.91% is used to pay for utilities like water and electricity, 6.34% is spent on miscellaneous expenses, and 6.21% is spent on transportation.

Education expenses take up 3.76% of the budget; health is at 3.70%; other expenses at 3.09%; special occasion spending at 2.55%; durable equipment, perhaps for house repairs, is at 2.54%; and footwear and clothing expenses at 2.46% and 2.44% per year.

Here’s a breakdown of how an average family that earns a base salary of USD 500 per month or USD 6,000 per year normally spends money:

Expense% allocationAnnualMonthly
Food41.9 $1,508.40 $125.70
House rent12.19 $438.84 $36.57
Utilities7.91 $284.76 $23.73
Miscellaneous6.34 $228.24 $19.02
Transportation6.21 $223.56 $18.63
Education3.76 $135.36 $11.28
Health3.7 $133.20 $11.10
Other expenses3.09 $111.24 $9.27
Special occasion2.55 $91.80 $7.65
Durable equipment2.54 $91.44 $7.62
Footwear2.46 $88.56 $7.38
Clothing2.44 $87.84 $7.32

*in USD

Common salaries for Filipino workers

Below is a chart showing the average annual salary in the Philippines (USD) for common professionalised roles.  Read more about salaries in our comprehensive salaries guide here.

Job TitleEntryJuniorSenior
Accountant $4,742 $7,025$7,782
Call center agent $3,706 $4,587$5,633
Copywriter $4,629 $5,845$7,483
Graphic artist $3,468 $4,029$5,523
HR manager $6,957 $9,504$11,290
Project manager $10,270 $13,949$21,198
SAP consultant $9,418 $17,805$27,214
Software developer $6,668 $10,676$14,601
Systems administrator $6,877 $9,023$9,734
Systems analyst $6,728 $11,966$13,759
Team leader $7,230 $9,106$13,759
Technical support representative $4,169 $5,448$6,134
Virtual assistant $4,039 $6,714$8,682

*Average annual salary in USD

Key benefits of outsourcing payroll services
Reduced overhead costs

International transfer of salaries and payments

With the rise of online payment platforms, remittances and business transactions in different countries are made easier and cheaper. One can already send payments in different currencies without the burden of excessive foreign exchange fees and a few weeks of waiting for the payment to be credited.

For your payment needs, you may opt for a global B2B payment solution where you can do money transfers instantly and hassle-free. It is perfect for freelancers, SMEs, and bigger companies alike who do transactions across the globe.

Outsourcing is a win-win solution

Hiring a Filipino workforce is a win-win choice for both your company and the Philippine-based BPO company, freelancer, or consultant that you are working with.

It allows your company to increase its bottom line and give decent work and wages to employees in the Philippines, as well as promote good working conditions in the BPO industry in the country. That’s not slavery at all; that’s empowerment.

As such, companies looking to outsource their business processes in the Philippines should not let themselves be hampered by any sort of misplaced guilt or hesitation. If you’re ready to go ahead and leave your doubts behind, get in touch with us at Outsource Accelerator and we’ll get you started.

To get a better picture of how incomes and salaries work in the Philippines, check out our very own comprehensive salaries guide in the matter. You can also see how the typical Filipino employee’s salaries compare to those in the UK, US, and Australia here.

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