The foreign perception of the CEE workforce is shifting from one of low cost manufacturers to a key source of BPO services, while the proportion of tertiary-educated IT and ICT specialists is disproportionately high. Now with approx. 7 to 8 per cent of the global services off-shoring market, the region is expected to shift focus further away from India and the Philippines, with its stable economies, EU standards and well-qualified labour force.

The fastest growth in this sector is happening in Bulgaria, which offers the lowest labour costs, while Poland stands out as the largest and fastest growing business services centre. Lithuania has the largest ICT industry in the Baltic States, with an IT services exports industry valued at €44 million. In Latvia, the sector has grown significantly, currently accounting for 2 per cent of the GDP but growing at an annual rate of 15 per cent, while Estonia’s digital infrastructure is of an incredibly advanced stage with an IT outsourcing market valued at €95.5 million.

ICT is a central industry for Slovenia, accounting for 27 per cent of overall exports at a growth rate of nine per cent annually, while Croatia demonstrates growth potential in software development 33 per cent of students graduating from technical schools. Serbia is also emerging with educational reform and student incentives in high-demand labour markets, while Poland is implementing government subsidies and support schemes including scholarships in mathematical and life science faculties at a total value of €49.8 million. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are shifting focus and legislation on improving education generally.