Recently I was sent a link to an article relating to the end of call centres in the Philippines (linked above) and it really got me thinking about some of the points being made, enough so that it compelled me to write a response.
Firstly, to make statements such as these I would expect to see some sources to back it up, otherwise, it’s just words.
Some specific quotes that didn’t sit well with me;
“Eighty percent of all call centre jobs will disappear by 2025; please don’t doubt this.” – of course, people will doubt numbers that are not quantified with specific reports and research.
“What’s scary is that there is no replacement industry and there is no plan to create a replacement industry.” – the author ignores the fact that call centres are not the only type of BPO function being met within the industry.
I personally find the article reckless and falling short of enough substance to actually improve the situation, but there are some important points that, from reading the comments, most people are missing.
The author states that they hope “Filipinos take matters into their own hands and become independent” – and this, in my opinion, should have been the major theme of this article, not the doom and gloom scenario that can be read throughout the article.
Any industry or organisation that hopes to compete over the next 5-10 years must be actively driving improvement. This is, in fact, one of the primary justifications for outsourcing and offshoring in the first place. Organisations saw that they could hire more talent for less (there’s more to it than this obviously but I’m paraphrasing) and that they could achieve competitive advantage (at first) and then compete with early adopters (later).
I disagree that the BPO industry isn’t changing and evolving with market needs and opportunities, they have diversified their offerings from call centre functions to other more technical or specialised (and therefore more difficult to replace) functions such as finance, development, engineering and creative functions such as marketing, graphics and social. The mistake the author made was assuming that call centres ARE the BPO industry and this is simply not true.
In saying that though, anybody who is currently working or studying, should be reflecting on their course or position and thinking about their future roles. You should always be looking to grow and develop yourself because, hey it’s more fun that way right? I don’t care what job you have today, there is always a risk that it will disappear, just take the recent discussions regarding Jeepney drivers and plans to phase out the current types for environmentally friendly alternatives as an example. These concerns are not isolated to just call centres, BPO’s or even the Philippines.
Specifically addressing the artificial intelligence (AI) from the article, again this is something that should be thought about on a much broader scale than a specific function; within an industry; within a country. I do believe the word of some of the brightest minds of our world that have warned about the impacts of AI on our society (although I don’t subscribe to the apocalypse scenarios thrown around by the likes of Musk). There will be an impact on the jobs of today; in the future (some light reading: https://www.iotforall.com/impact-of-artificial-intelligence-job-losses/ ).
But let’s not forget that a large percentage of today’s jobs didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago; so should we not expect the same over the next 10-20 years. New types of jobs will be created as our technology and social needs change, that has happened for thousands of years and includes so huge jumps in technology such as the industrial revolution.
Now responding to the call for Filipinos to be more independent; I can see this already happening, even in the last 5-6 years since I’ve been visiting and working in the Philippines I have seen changes in professional culture that will better align with those in the west (for better or worse). Let us also reflect on the entrepreneurship that seems to be inherently built into the culture. I have met people who have secured a better future for their family simply by buying and selling rice; I know this doesn’t sound innovative, but it talks to a passion and drive based on family values that could be an asset if it is developed through education and experience.
Finally, there is much more talk about global social responsibility and this can only be of benefit to developing countries, such as the Philippines, as the use of resources (people and raw materials) becomes more transparent and abuse is responded to internationally.
What do you think?