Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Call center industry buoys up RP employment

The growth of call center industry remains to be an important factor in the significant improvement of the country's employment sector, with a projected sustained growth of 1.083 million in 2010.

In its latest report, the Labor Force Survey (LFS) noted a 2.5 percent or 803,000 growth in April 2006, up from the 32.2 million recorded during the same period last year.

Though not the biggest employers to date, call centers will remain to be the most important sector in the next five years, accounting for 431,000 jobs out of the total 1.2 million for the BPO sector.

Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPA/P) chairman Raneiro M. Borja said around 120,000 slots are expected to be filled by end-2006, up from the 70,000 that the industry generated in 2005.

Call centers account for 80 percent of the Business Process Outsourcing sector (BPO), touted as the country's sunshine industry in 2000s. In 2005, it raked in US$ 1.7 billion in revenues.

With Filipinos' innate familiarity with the western culture, being highly adaptable with accents and US places, brands and establishments come easy for call center workers. American firms are comfortable with Filipino's adaptability and knowledge with accents and the concept of western culture, Borja said.

Filipinos are likewise in demand in other BPO subsectors such as back office, medical transcription and digital content trailing with 342,000, 69,000 and 46,000 jobs, respectively.

The lure of call center primarily springs from the attractive compensation packages for customer service representatives (CSRs). To date, these professionals are among the top earners in the junior executive bracket, with income range of around P15,000 to P25,000 a month.

Call center operations are also steadily expanding as several hubs are built outside Metro Manila -- in Subic, Cebu and Davao.

The services sector, where the category of call center falls, earned a growth of 3.8 percent or 90,000 to 2.479 million from 2.389 million during the same period last year.

This development directs the country to becoming the Asia's BPO hub.

One of the impediments, though, is the low absorption rate among job applicants. Borja noted that in every 100 applicants, only three to five will be hired, ironically due to the workers' so-called degeneration in English skills.

Acknowledging this concern, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the release of P500 million to facilitate English proficiency training for "near-hires, or those applicants who missed but are near the 2 percent hiring rate of the industry."

PGMA Training for Work Coupon will give near-hires the opportunity to level up their skills by undergoing English proficiency trainings in partner schools. (PNAFeatures)

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