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Defaulting Tech Workers to Foreign Firms – From Home

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BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA – Every time Giuliana logs into LinkedIn, her inbox on the professional networking platform is filled with job offers – she receives at least five a day. Most are from American and European companies offering to double her salary or pay her in US dollars rather than Argentine pesos. For the data scientist, the offers are tempting, so much so that she is considering quitting her senior job at one of Argentina’s leading tech companies.

“I’m considering leaving, but only because I’m drawn to the dollar salary,” says Giuliana. “If it was just a matter of the work environment, colleagues and projects, I would stay.

Giuliana has worked for her current employer for four years. (She asked to be identified only by first name and that her employer not be named in order to avoid retaliation from the company.) The company is a local industry leader, but even she finds herself beaten by competing offers as many of her colleagues leave the ship.

“Everyone I know [who quit] left for foreign companies, ”says Giuliana. “It’s complicated, because there is a permanent turnover of staff. If a senior executive who was very active leaves, it’s like having a leg cut off from the table.

While some information technology workers have relocated to work overseas, the popularity of remote working during the coronavirus pandemic has allowed many workers to stay in Argentina while working for foreign companies. This freedom has been a boon to workers, who can seek better work opportunities without uprooting their lives. But experts say the brain drain to foreign firms is slowing the growth of Argentina’s tech sector and threatening the country’s ability to become a leading software exporter.

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In 2020, foreign tech companies began mass hiring remote workers living in Argentina, says Carla Cantisani, director of services and quality for Argentina and Uruguay at The Adecco Group, a human resources company. . According to the Argentine Chamber of Commerce for Software and Computer Services, approximately 120,000 people work in the technology industry in Argentina.

The country’s technology record is strong. Argentina produced 11 “unicorns” – tech companies with valuations each topping $ 1 billion before going public – including Mercado Libre, the Latin American e-commerce giant; Despegar, an online travel agency; and OLX, a leading classifieds platform.

Such successes were not enough to retain technological talent. In 2021, there were between 5,000 and 10,000 unfilled IT jobs in the country, according to the chamber. This is striking in a country where the unemployment rate reaches 9.6% in the largest urban areas and where vacancies regularly attract hundreds of applicants.

For many tech workers, however, the money offered by foreign companies is too good to be left behind. Eighty percent of IT professionals earn between 80,000 and 250,000 pesos (between $ 800 and $ 2,500) per month working for national companies, depending on the chamber, and those in leadership positions can earn up to 450,000 pesos (about $ 4,500) per month, says Giuliana. But foreign companies offer salaries of up to $ 10,000 per month, depending on experience.

“I’m considering leaving, but only because I’m drawn to the dollar salary.

The possibility of being paid in dollars rather than pesos is also very attractive to many Argentines, given the country’s high inflation rate, which increased by 52.1% between October 2020 and October 2021. With the fall in the value of the peso, the dollar is considered a more stable currency.

“My company is not updating salaries to the level that an outside company would,” adds Giuliana. “Although they have higher adjustments for inflation, that doesn’t compensate for what you would earn in differential if you worked for foreign companies.”

There is no official data on the number of Argentine tech workers who have joined foreign companies. But chamber president Sergio Candelo said the country’s sector growth has already started to slow.

“We have released some numbers, and leaving just 4,000 people is about $ 250 million a year. [in lost export revenue]”, says Candelo.

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Lucila Pellettieri, YPG Argentina

Giuliana works in the cafe. She says she receives at least five job offers a day, and most are from overseas companies offering to pay her in dollars.

Candelo fears Argentina will lose its chance to become a top software developer and just export talent, repeating the country’s history of leather export and shoe import.

“We could be a world-class technological developing country,” says Candelo. “We could be Argentina’s future and generate 5% of GDP by 2030, or we could just stay where we are.”

But the changes have been good for tech workers. While companies in Silicon Valley, America’s tech paradise, may have already insisted that employees move to the state of California, the pandemic has made them more open to remote hiring.

“There’s a lot more movement in the market,” says Cantisani, of the human resources company. “There are people looking for positions in companies that previously were only offered to local talent.

Juan Dans, a web developer, says he spent several years seeking work with non-governmental organizations based in Argentina and abroad. Before the pandemic, he says, opportunities were closed to him unless he moved overseas.

“There was remote work, but only if you lived in the United States,” he says. “Now he’s opened up a lot more. “

In October, Dans started new work with a US-based nonprofit that makes security apps for people in conflict zones. His salary is in dollars and he did not need to leave Buenos Aires. Even so, like Candelo, he hopes Argentina can become more than a recruiting ground for foreign companies and become a leading tech hub in its own right.

“I hope that will happen,” he said, “and that we will all want to work in Argentina out of pride and because of the quality.”