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 labour 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 per cent 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 per cent, 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 realise 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?
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