Philippines, (PressExposure) January 12, 2009 -- Never before has Philippine labor had such negotiating power. Call center recruits are now being offered signing bonuses before they start work. Employees are given bonuses for finding new recruits - more often than not poached from other call centers. The explosive growth of business process outsourcing (BPO) has plugged the economy of the Philippines into the global services industry, raising high new hopes about the country's economic prospects. Just 10 years ago, economic analysts and pundits concurred that the future of the predominantly agrarian economy lay in exporting fruit, seafood, garments, low-end electronics, and people - due primarily to cheap labor in the Philippines.
Nowadays, Filipino workers are increasingly doing the information technology enabled services (ITES) once held by middle-income-earning Americans, landing jobs in everything from accounting, payroll processing, credit-card administration, revenue management, database management, supply-chain management, and business intelligence to long-distance warehouse and inventory management.
In the first four months of this year, about 14 more companies are coming in, two of them call centers, and the rest back-office processing. That's a good sign because clients don't really need very, very good English speakers, but rather individuals with technical backgrounds and good written English, which the Philippines has an adequate supply of.
That is exactly how big multinational companies view the situation, particularly as other global English-speaking countries vie for a share of outsourcing contracts. As the Philippines reaches ever-deeper into its pool of semi-skilled labor - hype or no hype - the viability of its fastest-growing industry is still very much optimistic.
Graduates and even undergraduates who pass the preliminary exams undergo a six-day English skills training and product training for three weeks. After which the agent trainee will be placed on the floor to attend to mock calls for assessment. Agents are supposed to be able to type at least 25 words per minute.
Though foreign companies enjoy cheap labor in the Philippines, Filipinos also enjoy their salaries in the BPO sector compared to lower pay in other Filipino-owned companies. The basic pay for call center agents ranges from P11,000 (US$200.98 at US$1=PhP54.73) to P13,000 a month. In ICT Philippines, a call center that operates in the Philippines, agents enjoy a monthly P2,500 food and transportation allowance and a performance appraisal bonus amounting to P4,000. Often, they are also offered spiffs like appliances, cellular phone loads and gift checks to boost the sales per hour capacity of the employees. For example, whoever first gets five sales per hour for the night wins a prize. And an agent who hits the target quota sales gets an additional P11,500 commission plus a 30-50 percent night differential. All in all, a well-performing agent gets a gross monthly income of more than P31,000. This, as opposed to the P8,000 entry level salary generally offered in other sectors.
Offshoring, Inc, the leading American owned and operated offshore outsourcing company based in the Philippines, attests to the aforementioned studies regarding the phenomenon of business process outsourcing. Formed in 2004 by a group of American IT executives with extensive outsourcing and offshoring experience, the company is proud to have a long record of successful collaborations that have brought tremendous benefits to businesses worldwide.
The call center industry is tagged as the sunshine industry by the government because of its massive expansion, thus generating thousands of employment. It is the fastest growing sector within the IT software and services industry. It is not only sprouting in Metro Manila, but in other metropolitan areas as well like Cebu, Bangui, Davao and Pampanga. With an unemployment rate at 13 percent, the highest in Southeast Asia, the call center industry is perceived as a rare bright spot in the country sailing economy.
Thus, the Arroyo government is putting high hopes in the ICT-enabled services sector for the development of the economy. To realize its goal of placing the Philippines in the call center map of the world, the government has designated more than 96 special economic zones that offer tax breaks and other incentives to foreign investors and is improving the telecommunications and other basic infrastructure. Who would've thought that cheap labor in the Philippines could help improve the country's economy when the outsourcing industry itself is cultivated?