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Economy

Call Center Outsourcing, A New Philippines Success Story

Second only to India in terms of scale, the Philippines' customer service outsourcing industry in is growing, offering well-educated English speakers willing to work the night shift.

A job at a call center can pay $400 a month in the Philippines
A job at a call center can pay $400 a month in the Philippines
Jofelle Tesorio and Ariel Carlos

MANILA — The Philippines is increasingly the new destination of choice for international companies wanting to outsource their call centers.

In a room lined with rows of computers, everyone here is wearing a headset and is busy answering phone calls from other parts of the globe, working all night long while everybody else is asleep.

Jana Kleibert, a lecturer from the University of Amsterdam, explains the advantage of using Filipino call centers. "The main attraction lies in the fact that there is a very large talented work force that is English-speaking — and English-speaking with an accent that is very understandable, especially to North Americans," she says. "The second thing is the work force is also well educated, which makes it easier to transfer service-based tasks. And there's a cultural affinity with North America that also helps in communicating and performing customer services."

According to The Wall Street Journal, Philippine outsourcing is second only to India in terms of scale. A story in the newspaper recently noted that outsourcers there have hired their one millionth employee after emerging as a new industry 10 years ago. The business generated $16 billion in revenue last year, or 6% of the national GDP.

Put another way, the call-center industry in the Philippines is now the third-largest dollar earner after tourism and remittances and is able to offer salaries of at least $400 a month.

Maria Concepcion Andres, 24, is a communications graduate who joined the call-center industry four years ago. "To be quite honest, it's really for the pay," she says. "From what I'd experienced before with local jobs, they give you a very low salary, and the benefits are not very competitive. Foreign companies that are based here give better benefits, so I prefer to work for them than for local companies."


Photo: Philippines Call Center Services

But it comes with a great deal of stress, says Louie Delostrico, another call-center worker. "First of all, this means sleeping during daytime because you have to work during nighttime," she says. "And then there are the customers themselves, because a lot of them are irate. You need a lot of patience, especially when a customer is swearing at you, using profane language."

There are health consequences, says Leian Marasigan, a researcher on labor issues at the University of the Philippines. "It's the nature of the work," Marasigan says. "You answer calls all the time. There are adverse health impacts — on the throat, for example — and then of course, there's the stress of dealing with angry customers most of the time because this is customer service."

One advertisement from a leading call-center company describes its workers as a new breed of heroes for sacrificing their family and social lives to contribute to the country's economy and their families' welfare.

Unusual working hours means having fun at strange times of the day. It's 9 a.m. and Rory Zachs has just finished bowling after work with his colleagues. "I come to work at 10 p.m.," he says. "I stay all night like everybody else and work very hard. But if you don't mind I'm going to cut this discussion short now — because I'm going to go to sleep."

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Economy

The Many Paradoxes Of Cuba's Eternal Milk Shortages

Milk shortages are not new in Cuba, where the state pays producers less for their milk of what they can gain by selling it on the black market.

A young girl drinks milk inside her home in Cienfuegos, Cuba

Sadiel Mederos Bermudez

HAVANA — "There is no milk" ceased to be a repeated phrase on the island, because everyone knows it and, probably, by now they have resigned themselves.

Children under seven and the elderly with medical diets don’t receive it with the necessary frequency, even if they are the only sectors of the population with the right to acquire it through a government subsidy.

Because there simply is no milk in Cuba.

The rest of Cubans must buy it in stores in freely convertible currency (MLC). However, powdered or fluid milk hasn't been available in stores in MLC for months. Last time, at the beginning of the year, the price of a bag of 1 to 1.2 kilograms was between 6 and 8 MLC ($6-8).

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