During the past 15 years, companies have flocked to a handful of cities in India and Eastern Europe for offshore service functions. As a result, the most popular sites are now overheating: Demand for young professionals is outstripping supply, wages and turnover are soaring, and overburdened infrastructure systems are struggling to serve the explosive growth. The happy news is that the tight labor markets in the well-known hot spots are the exceptions, not the rule. Many attractive alternatives are emerging around the world. According to a McKinsey Global Institute study, more than 90% of the vast and rapidly growing pool of university-educated people suitable for work in multinationals are located outside the current hot spot cities. For instance, Morocco is now home to offshore centers for French and Spanish companies requiring fluent speakers of their home languages. Neighboring Tunisia has used its modern infrastructure, business-friendly regulations, and stable, low-cost workforce to attract companies such as Siemens and Wanadoo. Vietnam offers university graduates who have strong mathematics skills; speak French, English, German, or Russian; and do not demand high wages. The problems facing the hot spots, coupled with the emergence of many more countries able and willing to provide offshore services, mean that picking a site has become more complicated. In choosing a location, companies will have to focus less on low wages and much more on other ways that candidate cities can fulfill their business needs. They will have to be much more rigorous in articulating precisely what they require from an offshore location. That means evaluating their unique needs on a range of dimensions and understanding how alternative locations can meet those needs for the foreseeable future.
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