Kyri Theos, Australian country manager for Elance-oDesk.
Australia is now the top country per capita for online outsourcing marketplace Elance-oDesk and growing rapidly, prompting the company to open a local office.
Elance-oDesk, created from the merger of Elance and oDesk announced at the end of last year, now employs Kyri Theos as the Australian country manager. There are two city managers, in Melbourne and Sydney, with plans to hire in Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane.
“We’re officially launching in Australia this week,” says Theos. “It’s our second largest market globally and number one when measured per capita. We’re also seeing a lot of domestic trade between Australian businesses and Australian freelancers.”
Theos was hired to be Australian country manager for Elance shortly before the merger.
Elance-oDesk competes with local outfit Freelancer, headed by entrepreneur and Young Rich member Matt Barrie, as well as specialist marketplaces such as Airtasker and 99Designs.
Elance-oDesk data suggests Australian businesses spend twice as much per capita as the United States. There are 161,000 Australian businesses registered on the site, or 8 per cent of all businesses in the country.
Australian businesses have spent $US145 million with Elance or oDesk in the past three years, with a 235 per cent increase in online hiring over that time.
Most of the work is going offshore with the top five countries that Australian businesses hire from being India, the Philippines, the US, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Australia is in sixth place, ahead of the UK, Canada, the Ukraine and Romania.
This could be a reflection of the fact that Australian businesses complain about a technology skills shortage and 40 per cent of the jobs posted on Elance-oDesk are IT and programming jobs.
Australia has relatively high wages and inflexible industrial relations conditions, not just compared with developing countries but also places like California that have at-will employment. However, Theos rejects this as an explanation for why Australian businesses have embraced online outsourcing.
“The truth is that the earning potential on Elance and oDesk is among the highest in the industry because we put an emphasis on quality,” Theos says.
He adds that a survey of Elance-oDesk customers suggests that “80 per cent of all the work done on Elance and oDesk would not have been done locally if online work hadn’t been available”.
“This isn’t about taking jobs out of the economy but creating new opportunities for employment,” Theos says.