Wednesday, July 14, 2010 |
Offshoring in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry has been the focal point of economies of many Third World countries. India alone employs one million people in its BPO sector. While they may be able to pay a reasonably good amount to locals in such economies, the industry has much to do in order to improve stressful working conditions. Such was the verdict of a study which was recently released by the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Among the advantages of offshoring work, particularly to cost-effective locations such as India and the Philippines, is the ability to set up a 24/7 operation due to the time zone differences. Companies from the US and the UK have outsourced services that have allowed for much higher paying jobs for these locations. Indian BPO workers, for instance, receive a salary that is close to double the amount in other sectors of their economy. Meanwhile, the BPO employees in the Philippines have salaries that are higher than that of other sectors by 53%. However, the survey by ILO has given truth to concerns over stressful working conditions from trade unions and social workers in India.
According to the study, workers in the offshoring industry are faced with heavy workloads, strict procedures enforced through electronic monitoring, and for customer service agents, difficult clients. According to Anna Fos, head researcher at the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, efforts by trade unions in both the Philippines and India to introduce collective bargaining have proved fruitless.
"We have not had any success in introducing collective bargaining in call centers and other BPO companies in the Philippines," Fos said. She added that one of the main reasons for this is the ease of which BPO workers are able to switch from one employer to the next should problems with their current employer occur: "They will not come to us, if there is a problem, as there are lots of jobs available", she commented.
Despite the working conditions of such offshoring outfits, analysts believe that employers have generally shown a lack of interest with regards to joining trade unions due, among other things, to fear of reprisals from their employers.
ILO’s study, which has shown high rates of staff turnover in the BPO industry, suggests that the working conditions endured by BPO employees represent a “tailor-made recipe” for hazards related to stress. Turnover rates have peaked at 100% annually in certain offshoring companies - representing one of the industry’s major concerns.