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BPOFW: How outsourcing spells prosperity for modern Filipino workers

A fresh graduate in search of a job will find himself crashing into a space that is massively occupied by the unemployed. But then a game changer comes and suddenly it’s alright to put dreams aside. Job hunters won’t have to be told their curriculum vitae will be put on an “active file” — a file that no one knows really exists because sometimes you never hear from the employers even after months of waiting for their call.

The business process outsourcing industry started opening its doors in the Philippines more than a decade ago. Today, BPO  job postings are all over the media and that gave a glimmer of hope to the thousands who want to put food on the table, send a sibling to school, and pay for the medical expenses of an ailing parent. Getting hired the same day and getting a compensation package that is twice or even three times more attractive than common entry level jobs had become the apparent dream for all fresh graduates. If you asked them what their future looks like, you will likely get a deriding answer: “Sitting in a cold office and getting yelled at by a person who lives on the other side of the world.”

They say jokes are half-meant.

There’s nothing bigger than the dire need to survive in the third world. Stories of students graduating from once highly veneered university courses flocking to call centers have become too common that one would begin to think that the BPO industry is the be-all and end-all for all our graduates. What happens now to our future engineers, medical practitioners, scientists, etc.?

A report by the Board of Investments reveals that 683,000 Filipinos were employed by offshore call centers in 2011, marking a whopping 24% increase in revenue from the previous year. More jobs will be made available as the government seeks to expand the BPO industry and is aiming to target a $25 million revenue by 2016. It’s a steady growth that gives Filipinos security in their employment.

It makes us wonder though if quality education would still matter in a country with a booming industry that does not leverage so much on educational background.

The headline in a recent report published at Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom may have brought relief to the newly registered nurses in the country. It said: “Work in healthcare BPO, nurses urged.” The Healthcare Information Management Association of the Philippines (HIMOAP) revealed that 43, 000 new employees will be hired by the end of the year. Newly registered nurses don’t have to go abroad to find jobs because healthcare BPO will need more agents to fill the seats of the continually growing healthcare outsourcing market in the Philippines.

This is all good news. So is there a problem?

While the continuous opening of job opportunities in the BPO industry is taunted as the saving grace of a flailing economy, there are concerns that also need to be pulled from under the rug and be addressed accordingly. For one, there is that binding issue in the substantial effect on the physical and psychological health of those working during the odd hours. Sleep deprivation, above everything else, has the most detrimental effect on a person’s body and mind which can lead to long-term health problems. Among them are poor health in general and fatal diseases, to name a few.

Young people working in an environment where high levels of stress due to extreme pressure is the norm, almost always end up living a detrimental lifestyle. The temptation of “winding up” after a long night of hard work usually ends up in a drinking spree. The term “day out” is now the new night out, and usually they never have to wait for the weekend to come.

There is also that other concern which targets the less physical aspect of the BPO industry. The youth who we rely on as the dreamers and movers in our society seem to have lost the desire to introspect and find out what they really want to become. Not to undermine the hard work that call center agents do, but it would also be wise to use their earnings to invest in other important things like what a lot of students have already done. They put education on their list of priorities. One can never lose if he has a safety net he could fall back on if the situation ever demands it in the future.

I could not help overhearing a conversation between a father and his son.

“Will I also become a call center agent?” the son asks his father.

The father answers, “Is that what you want to become?”

“No, but that’s everybody’s job now.”

“In your case, you are required to dream and to know what you want,” his father tells him with a pat on his shoulder.

I’ve been hearing these kinds of conversations a lot. They usually happen in our living room.