Philippines contact centre industry: glass half full, or half empty?


  • The Philippines contact centre industry estimates it will need to train 73,000 workers annually for higher skilled roles.
  • Philippines contact centre revenues are tipped to double to $US20.4b by 2022.

Rather different outlooks for the Philippines contact centre industry emerged in the run-up to the Contact Islands conference held at Boracay Island last week— and from the same organisation!

The Philippine Daily Inquirer, under the headline Contact center sector sees 8% growth to 2022, said the Contact Centre Association of the Philippines (CCAP)was tipping a 29percent decrease in the number of people in low-skill contact centre jobs (simple entry-level, process-driven tasks that require little abstract thinking or autonomy)—a loss of around 43,000 jobs— but also quoted CCAP president Jojo Uligan saying the industry would add around 73,000 jobs a year until 2022 as workers move to more mid- and high-skilled tasks.

“We predict about eight percent annual growth until 2022. That takes our revenues from $[US]12.8 billion last year to $[US]20.4 billion in 2022.”

“We predict about eight percent annual growth until 2022,” he said.“That takes our revenues from $[US]12.8 billion last year to $[US]20.4 billion in 2022. We’re focused on upgrading our workers. So those with jobs which are defined as simple, it doesn’t mean we’re going to take them out.

We’re going to train them so they can start accepting more complex types of work.”

He sounds very positive. However, a Bloomberg report of an interview with Uligan headlined its article The World’s Top Call-Center Nation… a People Problem. Bloomberg confirmed the predicted eight percent annual growth rate but said this rate was as “compared with growth rates exceeding 10 percent in the past.”

And while Uligan initially seemed to be very bullish about adding these 73,000 skilled jobs annually, he was given to appear much less confident in the Bloomberg report. It quoted him saying companies were increasingly seeking workers who were college educated, experienced, had technical expertise and could easily be retrained.

“There is a lot of complex work now. It’s no longer mere directory assistance or taking orders,” he said. “People don’t evolve as fast as technology.”

“There is a lot of complex work now. It’s no longer mere directory assistance or taking orders [but] people don’t evolve as fast as  technology.”

Bloomberg cited a study by New York-based consultancy Tholons Capital, to say: “More than half of outsourced jobs could be lost in a few years unless significant retraining is done.”

Similar concerns were expressed by the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) president Rey Untal, in an article in the Manila Bulletin. It said the BPO sector — of which contact centres represent 67 percent — was projected to grow by only nine percent annually until 2022, “slower than the ‘mid-teen’ growth it experienced in previous years.”

It quoted Untal saying,“Many experts are predicting that the workforce is in danger of being replaced by automation but that is simply not the case. What is often overlooked about automation is that while it is expected to impact certain jobs in the sector, this will also enable the IT-BPM Industry to move up the value chain, resulting in an increase in mid-skilled jobs and high-skilled services.”

The report said IBPAP had decided to elevate discussion on the issue during its 9th International IT-BPM summit in October.

The big question is: how easy it will be to find and train the estimated 73,000 people needed annually?

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