Is there a thread on (rate) frictions arising from agencies based in emerging countries?
Thread poster: Richard_III

Richard_III  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:35
German to English
+ ...
Nov 18, 2012


The title says it already. I am relatively new on ProZ (although have worked as translator for more than a decade, but mostly with direct clients) and wouldn't want to re-hash an old topic that my have been discussed at length. In a nutshell, in my short time here (and even before that) I have noticed a tendency towards translation agencies based in emerging Asian countries offering services in "Western" languages, paying emerging countries rates, AND apparently getting away with it. I have actually taken the time to respond to a guy from an Indian agency, explaining to him that if they decided to offer German/English AND required a financial background on top of it, chances were the translators might not benefit from the same low cost of living as the agency did, seeing as they might actually LIVE in the "West". This was probably a futile exercise, but I felt it was necessary all the same. They probably couldn't care less.

I was curious whether this was actually old news, and I'd just have to deal with it...



P.S. Soon we'll be on the other side of this "but when I started out 12 years ago" phase, I promise.


Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:35
Chinese to English
Yes, it's a perennial favourite Nov 19, 2012

The conclusion these threads always come to is simply: maintain high quality, only work with clients who appreciate it.

I increasingly think that engaging with the, ahem, lower end of the market is just an exercise in futility. Best case scenario: you run into someone who happens to need quality and you convince that individual of the need to charge and pay accordingly. That's a small victory - but there is no shortage of spivs and idiots to take his place. The bottom end of the market is always going to be there, and we're always going to have to steer well clear.

Geographically, you're right, at the moment the Asian agencies seem to be making the most egregious offers. And that's useful to know when you're sifting the wheat from the chaff. But in five years' time it'll be the Russian agencies; then the South American; then the African agencies... it's never going to end.


Richard_III  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:35
German to English
+ ...
Thanks Phil... Nov 19, 2012

... I did fear that I wasn't exactly inventing the wheel there...


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:35
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Some comments Nov 19, 2012

Richard_III wrote:
I have noticed a tendency towards translation agencies based in emerging Asian countries offering services in "Western" languages, paying emerging countries rates, AND apparently getting away with it.

Yes. Unfortunately there is very little data on this, due to the closed and non-regulated nature of client-translator relationships, so it is difficult to draw conclusions from it, but yes, there is a "trend" of agencies in cheaper countries doing jobs for clients in richer countries cheaply.

The question that I would love to see an answer to is whether this hurts the translation industry. I'm sure a number of well-known businesses have switched to such agencies for their translation needs, but how many large businesses still prefer to use local agencies instead of overseas ones? And, more importantly, how many businesses for whom translation was too expensive in the past are now making use of translations because translations are more cheaply available?

In a sense, the system should be self-regulatory -- translators who can't afford to work for such rates should (eventually) refuse to work for such agencies, or should find ways to adapt their translation businesses to produce higher volumes to compensate for the lower prices. If you're unwilling to adapt to that, then your choice is clear: simply avoid such agencies.

I must also add that you'd be doing yourself a disservice by stereotyping such agencies, because there are agencies in such countries that offer good rates and prompt payment. After all, price isn't something that should come as a surprise during any job -- price is negotiated right at the start of the job, so there can be no nasty surprises, and so there is no need to avoid considering or investigating jobs from agencies in those countries.

In general, in my personal experience, agencies from the Middle East and Asia offers less money than agencies from the US or UK, but every now and then I meet an exception to the rule, e.g. a US agency offering less than most of my Middle Eastern clients, or an Asian client offering a rate comparable to my best UK client, etc.


Sitiens (X)
Local time: 04:35
English to Swedish
+ ...
I have tried to do the same Nov 24, 2012

I had a brief contact with an Asian agency in the naïve beginning of my career. I ended up telling them that I couldn't work for them because their rates wouldn't allow me to cover even my most basic expenses. As far as I have heard from both project managers and tutors, Scandinavia is one of the most expensive countries in terms of translator wages, because we have high living expenses. Personally, I look exclusively for work in EU countries now, partly because the rates are better here, but also because that's the area my insurance covers.

There are a couple of writings on the matter by researchers and the like, and yes, the downward pressure on rates from Asian agencies is a thing. China and India specifically, but also some from the Middle East. They sell their services based on cost and less on quality, although that's not what it says on their sites.

What I wonder is, what sort of client goes to a low-cost agency to get translations? Do they think they will get the highest quality, or is it a matter of "This is all we can pay and we know the quality won't be excellent, but it's better than nothing".


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