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The Country’s Modern Wonder Crusader: Call Center Agents

February 8, 2010

by Dyan Garcia, with Ven Dionisio

There’s much to be said about the call center industry after the outbreak of HIV scandals has been blamed on the lifestyle of its employees. Much has also been said about the ‘stagnancy’ of the industry in terms of human capital growth, mostly because it is believed that all you need to get a job in this industry is survival-level English proficiency and you’re pretty good to go.

But everything has a good side, and in the case of this industry, it can be found in its economic contributions and in the corresponding increase in the employment rate in the Philippines. Statistics has shown the rise of the call center industry has actually accounted for the more or less 12 percent growth of our GNP, and the industry itself constitutes for around 20 percent of the market share for call centers in the world. Moreover, the country has hit the big time by becoming one of the top ten business process outsourcing (BPO) countries in the world. The Philippines has proven itself to be a worthy contender in the industry as many global BPO companies have looked to us as a highly reliable backup to BPO big-timer India, thanks to our killer English-speaking skills and low-cost labor. There are now as much as 700 call centers around the country.

While it does not openly contribute much in the fight against poverty, this 900,000-high employment phenomenon shows much of its involvement in the rise of our government revenues. Rapid industry growth and elevated economic standing attached to call centers have spawned other revenue-generating activities as well, such as higher property investments and more white-collar income for the hardworking everyman. The future looks bright for the country in such terms as the global industry looks to expand its investments here by creating call centers in the upper Luzon area, specifically in the Benguet Province and in Baguio City. This will surely open opportunities for our countrymen up North and boost tourism there as well.

All these string of benefits would never have been possible without government intervention. Thanks to former President Estrada’s edict concerning the inclusion of the information technology industry among the country’s economic zones. Such inclusion occurs under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), an agency which works very closely with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and whose main task is to create viable incentives for service facilities and to decide on good investments for manufacturing businesses focused on export, all for the economy’s well being. This inclusion thus makes the call center industry a PEZA Special Economic Zone. The government has also provided incentives for BPOs to invest in our economy by offering tax exemptions.

The creation of the Cyber Corridor and the determination of the 4 other super regions – mostly created in order to allow for more focused development – have been made possible with the help of the private sector, the academe, and some local government units in close relation to the DTI. The 4 other super regions are the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle, the Luzon Urban Beltway, the Central Philippines, and the Agribusiness Mindanao. The basis for the determination of the aforementioned areas for focused development was made on the grounds of high Information Technology (IT) graduates, accessible transportation, minimal labor and rent costs, and reliable infrastructure. The Cyber Corridor will basically become the e-service hotspots in different areas around the country, thus, attracting additional international investors due to its organization and industry-centered environment.

Despite everything that has been said and done, we are still a few of those who salute the industry for all that it has done for the economy. That’s another good call to add to the government’s list of achievements. Good job, government!

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10 comments

  1. what can you guys say about the health risks associated with being call center agents? Specifically, the effects of the different sleep cycles that these agents go through? In the long run, won’t that be bad for our society?


  2. Hello! Thank you for your question 🙂 We understand your predicament; of course there are some grave health risks to take into account when considering the call center industry situation. But in the end I must say that it’s really all about perspective. I’m not saying that your point is invalid, actually, if you asked me I would definitely say that the health risks are highly relevant, for nothing is more important than the lives of these hardworking people. But what we’re trying to do here is not blatantly ignore all the other important factors. We’re just trying to paint you guys a picture cut out from another angle, so that you may see that despite the negative reputations of the IT industry and the government (as can be seen through many news forecasts and such), both have actually done some good for the country. They can’t be perfect, and they will never be, that’s for sure, but at least from this aspect we might be able to see both of them in a slightly brighter (albeit very different) light. Welcome to GoodJobov, and thanks again! 🙂


  3. Related to the previous question:

    I know it’s the modern age and the youth and all the nontraditional crap and liberalism BUT what can you say about the HIV epidemic going around call centers lately? Perhaps that agrees with your title that they’re really the modern world crusader (sleeps around), actually. Awesome heroes we have these days.

    *Sorry pero nakakagalit lang talaga habangbuhay ang call center industry. Parang gusto kasi natin na hanggang dun nalang tayo. Kainis.*

    But seriously.


  4. Yeah I super get you, and honestly I agree! But it’s like this. Kumbaga sa debate, we’re setting our parameters in relation to this topic, and we’re speaking of the call center industry in a good light based on its economic background only. Nothing more, nothing less. 🙂 Like I said in the article, when I say hero here, I mean economic hero 🙂 Thank you for your question! 🙂


  5. Wow, nice commentary on call center agents, however, I cannot agree with them being economic heroes! Okay, let us establish the money they earn, but economically, they entail liablities in terms of underemployment and sacrifice labor and productivity to be middlemen to what, calls? Considering that standpoint, isn’t it settling, or perhaps a tad too optimistic to say that they have given the Philippines something REAL for the economy? besides having proficient English accents though.


  6. Hi! could you comment on the fact that although BPOs are currently creating immense jobs for Filipinos, they are mostly foreign-run companies. What negative implications could this have for the country in the long run?


  7. Thank you for your comments!! 🙂 Seriously, we feel so loved, well not really, but at least we’re starting to feel like we matter a little 🙂 I get your point also, but maybe what we need to realize here is that despite the negativity of everything you’ve mentioned above, the call center industry has managed to feed 900,000 hungry mouths and in this day and age, that has got to count for something. And true, if there’s one thing the government should work on, it’s to find a solution to these pressing problems, but you know what they say, one day at a time. And I wouldn’t say that this article simply settles, what with all the information given above, but rather, it’s simply giving credit where it’s due, most especially since most of these things are greatly overlooked by the general public. Thank you for your question 🙂


  8. For Reich: There are many negative implications. One important aspect to consider is that these foreign companies hold no loyalty to our country and they could just up and move to another country as they see fit, leaving us with empty buildings and 900000 more unemployed. But there’s always hope for some action. Given that the call center industry has provided much revenue for the government, many of the local agencies could use the said revenue for both development of new technology / industries and improvement of the standards of living of many of the Filipinos. That way, Filipinos won’t be left empty-handed if (or when?) the time comes wherein BPOs choose to invest elsewhere. Thank you for your question. 🙂


  9. I know it’s a bit shallow and all, but, from what I’ve read, along with my personal opinion on things, the government did not really have a choice when it came to this whole BPO industry. The opportunity opened up and why wouldn’t you take it? Sure, there are risks, but, doesn’t everything in life have risks? If you believed that your country had a competitive advantage (English speaking skills maybe) as compared to other countries, won’t you want to take advantage of it? A lot of things can be said about this and the argument might never be resolved, but for me, at the end of the day, I would be more content with actually doing something that asking myself “what if.” The government struck while the iron was hot, the metal might still be soft now, but, the end result could be a stunning and amazingly durable piece of material.


  10. the government would be crazy not to take this on. we need jobs, our country needs to be invested in, and in turn, the foreign companies desperately need us because our labor comes cheap. it’s a very nice set up. as long as it creates decent jobs, who cares about the nature of the work, if it’s just being middlemen? if the job is feeding families and doesn’t involve anything immoral or indecent, that should be good enough.

    nice blog. how bout a blog post covering the exit of the gma admin? she did evil things, but are there any good things that we got out of GMA? 🙂



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