Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Philippine BPO: First that Lasts

The Philippines is now officially the leading provider of business process outsourcing (BPO) services worldwide. We always know someone who is working or has worked in an outsourcing business; as of the moment, there are 600,000 estimated to work in the BPO industry. The Philippines commands a 350,000 workforce in the call center industry, better compared to India's 330,000. The Philippines is also expected to generate $5.7B in revenues, while India is set to earn $5.5B by the end of 2010.

The pervasive effects of globalization and the steady influx of information technology paved the way for high-quality, low-cost services to be availed of by sending locations (i.e., outsourcing companies). While these are developments to be applauded, we must also consider the costs, especially social. A cost-benefit analysis of our BPO situation is warranted so that we ensure that what is happening to our countrymen, especially our youth, is a good one.

Since almost half of the BPO employees work at night, they have experienced "sleep disorders, fatigue, eye strain and body pains." Also, it "create[s] an atmosphere conducive to caffeine, cigarettes, and other addictive substances." Worse, as discussed in our ICT class, incidence of HIV infection is higher in correlation to workers in this industry. Not to mention the higher risk of being mugged along dangerous streets for commuting in the wee hours of the morning.

Given the economic significance of our BPO industry, which Senator M. Defensor-Santiago calls as our "booming sunshine industry", our policymakers must do something to help alleviate these social costs. Health-related benefits like medical insurance and stress management programs, as well as employer-provided transportation, are examples of measures that will aid a workforce that may be beholden only to the color of money, but at the expense of their physical well-being. When we think of medium- and long-range solutions to these problems, our being number one in the industry will be geared to last.

Richmund Sta. Lucia, Post # 4


1. On Philippines as number one:

2. On the social costs of BPO:


Vann dela Cruz said...

i used to work for a call center for about 7 months just before law school. it sure is really stressful not only because one works graveyard shifts but more so because you really dont have anything to do but answer calls. it kind of boxes you physically and mentally... so as soon as i heard of my LAE result, i was out :D

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Maricris L. Real said...

I think we should step out of the prejudice against call centers. There are actually those which offer a good career path to its agents (opening up promotion within a year of service). I have a friend who's risen from agent to manager in a short span of time. Mind you, he doesn't fit the bill of the stereotyped call center employee. When I asked him about what he does, I gained a new respect for call centers because I realized not all of it is about learning to speak English a certain way or about learning how to keep callers at bay.

Anyhow, we need to teach people to take pride in their work. Being a call center agent is not a shameful thing nor is it work that may be taken lightly. Teach people to take pride in what they do and you teach them to take pride in themselves. That's a good jump off point for countering some of the social costs you mentioned (trashing your body with exposure to alcohol, nicotine, HIV, and the like).

On our part, we need to start respecting the work that other people do. When we look down on call centers or belittle the value of their work, we fail to give weight to the concerns which they face. If we want our government representatives to act, then we must work against the propagation of the mindset that for call centers you get a quick-fix means of getting money with minimal need to input quality work or professional commitment. Think about it, this is the mindset not just of applicants to call centers but even of the public in general and the government (with respect to its attainment of higher GDP).

So I agree with your post. There is a need for change. But I think the picture posted on your blog is the first thing that has to change.:)

Vann dela Cruz said...

@kris: agree! :D

but see, problem is also with policy makers. they see this "booming industry" and they put all their papogi points in trying to develop and build more of these industries because, well, yes, it gives people jobs etc.

but what if they shift their thinking into somehting else, like realizing how people/Filipinos could do well in this kind of environment and come up with an idea that we can of course do well if not better in other fields as well.

thing is, people dont have a lot of options after school. even for a iskolar ng bayan, trying out a call center or BPO after grad would be an option. thing is, there are not much choices!

i was once an agent, and proud of it! but thing is, most agents would have or at least some of those i know, would have preferred to have used their talents on its originally intended use :D

not that a BS Ed graduate is not proud of being an agent, but i assume one would have been prouder had he been able to exercise teaching...

or maybe it is not about pride or lack of respect.. just that some people know they can do much more,that they can do and give more, that they can de more... it's just that opportunities around him wont accomodate.

heck, a teacher in the province might want to be an agent.

ultimately, i think it's not about whether or not others respect others work but that one should be proud of his own. it's his niche, his little place where he can grow :D

(wala lang... pwede ng blog entry yun ah)

Maricris L. Real said...

Vann, oo nga. Pati comment ko pwede na pang blog entry.. Sayang! Haha..

But I agree, you should be proud of what you do for a living. However, from a social or a policy perspective, you can't leave such a task to the individual alone. The question becomes: how can you promote pride in work? The thing with call centers is, the prejudiced view of society already sets a tone. Many who enter don't take it seriously. As for those who do, negative opinions of society are strong demotivators. So the individual cannot be separated from his interaction with society. And thus the need to give and encourage respect not just the hands-off approach of allowing the individual to be proud for himself.

The question of improving other professions is another issue altogether. With or without the boom of the BPO industry, this is a need of the Philippines. That topic is for another conversation altogether.:)

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