According to Investor’s Globe – a unified hub for information and ideas relating to investment – Asia Pacific (APAC) is the fastest growing economic region of the world and investors’ top choice. Further, in a list of top five economies until 2023 published by FocusEconomics, three including China, Japan and India belong to the APAC region. It is also a fact that the workforce from APAC is employed around the globe and has a cheap labour market. In addition, a 2017 Asia Pacific Occupier Survey by U.S. real estate group CBRE found that multinational companies showed a strong desire to expand business in APAC emerging markets including China, India, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. Further, according to the Employment Screening Services Market Research Report of 2020, Asia Pacific is expected to be the fastest-growing market from 2019-2025 for employment screening services. Aren’t these attractive indicators for background screening service providers to explore the APAC market? Yes, they are, as growing economies and multinational companies in the region mean more business and job vacancies, thus creating an opportunity for background screening service providers to enter the market. Moreover, findings from Transparency International show that the APAC region scored an average of 45 on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of 2019, thus signalling that APAC is not only an attractive market, but the need for background screening services as a solution to reduce corruption also exists.
However, despite all of the attractiveness and existence of opportunity created by this need, penetrating the APAC market is not easy for background screening service providers. The market is huge, comprising of 40-plus countries with a number of organisations in each. Moreover, each country has its own laws, economic conditions, culture, background screening needs and accessible resources, and from a business perspective, familiarity with market is the utmost requirement and the basis upon which companies choose their target customers, formulate strategies, acquire sources and design services. Therefore, the challenge begins with understanding and analysing the huge APAC market.
Another challenge is to create awareness in the APAC region regarding the need for background screening services because need exists, but awareness of the need and its solution lacks. It has been observed that the background screening concept is less familiar and not practised in small organisations and underdeveloped economies of the APAC region. Therefore, making business leaders in the region realise the need and importance of background screening is a crucial and difficult task considering the APAC region’s market size and variation in languages, economies, laws, and companies. Therefore, background screening service providers need to come up with promotional campaigns in the APAC region that highlight increasing corruption figures, and forms of corruption, and explain the need, importance, and benefits of background screening services in overcoming corruption. In this regard, The Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) and its APAC council is an appropriate forum for spreading awareness.
By understanding the market of the APAC region and running awareness campaigns, background screening service providers can capture the market; but to survive, create and maintain a positive image they are required to offer quality background screening services, which largely depend on retrieving and verifying information from sources. However, these sources are beyond the control of the background screening industry and have their own data maintenance style, data checking methodologies, languages and restrictions on the provision of date that not only vary from country to country, but even from district to district in the same country. It is easy to retrieve or verify information where the record is computerized and well-maintained. However, is time-consuming in cases where a record is held manually and is not well organized.
The countries’ laws also impact the provision of background screening services in the region by restricting the collection, processing, accessing, and sharing of data. The developed countries in the APAC region have laws related to personal data protection like Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea, etc. However, there are many countries where personal data protection laws are not yet specified or are under development.
The above are just some broadly categorized challenges faced by nearly all background screening service providers in APAC region. However, there are others, either short-term or long-term, including the one we are facing nowadays in form of COVID-19 that have negatively impacted the economic activities around the globe, including the APAC region, and background screening industry is no exception. However, the scenario is yet to be analyzed – and no matter what the outcome, the importance of the APAC region and the opportunity for background screening services cannot be denied.
Sidra Aziz, Senior Investigations Officer