Economic Woes Drive
Bright Graduates to Call Centers
The call center industry is now considered
the biggest employer in the Philippines, in terms of growth rate. The
trade and industry department said call centers are hiring 1,500 to 2,000
people every week.
Contributed to Bulatlat
The youth are not only the least
employable, but they are also one of the groups easily affected by
economic downtrends. For example, in 1995 there was a net decrease in new
jobs created for those in the age group 25 to 34 years, with zero new jobs
created for those in the 20 to 24 year age bracket.
The economy is unable to absorb the large
number of new entrants into the labor market each year. It is particularly
difficult for young workers to find employment, and even more difficult
for them to find well-paid, secure and safe jobs.
CHED says business courses alone produce
about 45,000 surplus graduates who end up unemployed.
Total labor force in the Philippines in
2001 was estimated at 31.85 million people. From this total labor force,
some three million were in the age range of 15 to 19 years; 4.1 million,
ages 20 to 24 years; and a further 7.5 million, ages 25 to 34 years.
In 1996, the labor force participation
rates for youth appeared to be higher in rural areas than in the urban
areas. In particular, the participation rate for rural youth aged 15 to 20
years was 49.7 percent compared to 35.3 percent for urban youth. It is
possible that a number of rural youth join the labor force much earlier
than their urban counterparts, due to the limited opportunities for
tertiary studies in rural areas.
In a study made by the National Youth
Commission in 1998, more than 40 percent of youth are engaged in farming,
fishing and forest-related work. Agricultural jobs are ill-paid and
require little schooling. An equal proportion of youth is employed in
services. These workers are largely found in community, social and
personal services and wholesale and retail trade. These jobs are typically
at the bottom of the ladder in terms of pay, skill and status.
These figures indicate that a majority of
rural youth is employed in agriculture, while a third of urban youth is
employed in community and social services
However, agriculture’s share of employment
was already in a downward trend from 1970 to 1994, from 53.8 percent to
Already at the start of the millennium,
one of every 10 Filipinos was jobless. This translates to around 3.1
million Pinoy workers sidelined by the economic crisis.
Palatino, Anak ng Bayan vice president doubts if the present
administration can provide employment to the new graduates this year and
if Arroyo can really deliver six million jobs at the end of her term.
Palatino said about
700,000 workers are laid-off every year due to “mass labor
contractualization.” He chided the Arroyo government for its continued
labor export policy which banks on international migration, saying it does
not resolve the prevalent joblessness in the country. Some 2,800 Filipinos
fly abroad everyday due to lack of job opportunities.
In 2002, the number
of Overseas Filipinos Workers (OFWs) already reached 1.06 million, up by
2.6 percent from 1.03 million a year ago.
increase in the number of OFWs also fueled the continuous brain drain in
the country. Sadly, other countries are the ones which benefit from the
Philippines’ brightest minds due to lack of attractive job and
opportunities here,” Palatino pointed out.
Among the most badly hit the by the brain
drain phenomenon is the health sector. Migrant health and life science
professionals are placed at 43,000 of whom 33,000 are female. Overseas
caregivers who fall under the category Personal Services workers number
Records from the Professional Regulations
Commission do not provide a clear picture of the brain drain among nurses
and doctors. However, the dramatic annual reduction in registered nurses
from 27,272 in 1995 to only 5,874 in 2000 is indicative of the worrisome
trend considering the reduction in graduates is only a little more than 10
Dr. Jaimel Galvez Tan
of the University of the Philippines Manila said some 25,000 nurses left
the country last year which was three times as many as graduated from
In addition, Galvez Tan
said, 2,000 doctors left to become nurses. This year, 4,000 doctors are
taking up nursing. The
United States will have
a shortage of 800,000 nurses by 2020, according to one estimate. Such is
the demand that in the Philippines there are now almost 300 nursing
schools, up from 127 nine years ago, according to the Philippine Nurses
Such was the case of
Elmer Jacinto, 28, a magna cum laude from a top medical school who bested
1,824 other aspiring doctors who took the national medical exam last year.
In his media interviews, Jacinto was very vocal that he intends to work as
a nurse in the
A doctor in the
Philippines only earns
an average of $400 a month, while a nurse in the United States can earn
$4,000 a month on top of a $7,000 signing bonus.
Furthermore, in his
study, Prof. Roland Simbulan, UP
chancellor, found that about 65 percent of medicine school graduates, like
the UP College of Medicine, went abroad after graduation.
Call centers: Boon
Aside from labor
migration, the Arroyo government is currently banking on what it has been
the Philippines’ “Sunshine industry” – call center. Even the presidential
palace held a call center job fair last year.
The call center
industry is now considered the biggest employer in the
in terms of growth rate. The trade and industry department said call
centers are hiring 1,500 to 2,000 people every week. There are already
about 45 Filipino and foreign players in the Philippines' booming call
center business, which has generated 30,000 jobs in just five years here.
The country already ranks second to
in attracting call-center business and government officials are confident
it will overtake the latter in the next five years.
With its attractive
salary amid low-paying and joblessness, thousands of graduates have been
lured into the call center business in the last five years. DTI estimates
that a Philippine agent receives starting pay of about P12,000 to P15,000
to as much as P40,000 for higher positions every month.
Yael Medina was among
those who joined the bandwagon. A graduate of Secondary Education at the
University of the
Philippines in 2000,
Yael said she really wasn't inspired to apply for teaching positions at
”I had applications in the States and I was hoping that one of them would
still call and let me know that they wanted to offer sponsorship. I needed
a job that would allow me to leave anytime. A teaching job would have
tied me down for at least 10 months,” she explained.
”I was disillusioned by several high school batchmates who had gone into
education too and who were teaching in public schools,” Yael added,
pertaining to the low salary of public salary teachers.
She said it may be
possible that she will continue working in a call center in the next yars,
”but not in a customer service representative capacity.”
Yet while call center agents get higher salary than ordinary rank-and-file
employees, DTI admits Filipino agents get only a fifth of their American
The department also
says that Filipino call center workers stay an average of 2.5 years on the
job, compared with about eight to nine months for Americans, which is also
on a part-time basis.
Even call centers
confess that while there seems to be a large pool of English-speaking
college graduates being churned out by Philippine schools, only a few
qualify. Out of 100 applicants in a call center firm, for instance, only 5
to 10 are hired.
“The government is using the call center
boom to cover the high unemployment and underemployment rate in the
country. In fact, most call center agents finished degrees which are not
related at all to their present job,” Palatino pointed out.
“Consider these: honor students, student
leaders who graduated from the best universities in the country from tough
courses are simply relegated to answering calls from customers whose
problems most of the time can be fixed by even a toddler. These fresh
graduates who labored for four or five or even six years in college
learning the ropes of their chosen field have to forget about all these
because their college education does not match the type of job they have
to perform,” he said.
Palatino said the call center boom is not
the answer to the country’s employment problems. “It may solve our
problems in the short term, but it still does not address the long-term
issues,” he explained.
Palatino also blamed
the government’s freeze hiring policy for the high unemployment rate among
new graduates. He said the policy further aggravated the situation since
it remains the biggest single employer in the country.
employment programs of the DoLE through the Public Employment Service
Office (PESO) and the Employment Promotion Division (EPD) have not really
eased the unemployment problem,” he added.
From January to
September last year, the labor department said it was able to solicit
609,380 job vacancies from different companies. However, this is still not
enough to accommodate some 654,045 job-hungry applicants who registered.
In the end, only 455,457 applicants were placed through local employment
services. Furthermore, only a total of 292,259 or 45 percent of the total
registered applicants were hired as regular workers.
He also said the
unemployment problem is rooted in the country’s educational system wherein
degree holders do not have the skills and knowledge required to qualify
for the jobs they aspire for. “Raw training underwent by new graduates
make them unqualified for in demand jobs, so most of them are forced to
resort to underemployment,” he explained.
that the overconcentration of students on few courses also contributes to
the growing unemployment rate. “Most courses in fact do not correspond to
the actual need of the local economy for it to develop, and instead its
graduates are designed to be exported outside the country to serve foreign
interests,” he said.
He then urged the government and the
education department to restructure the education curriculum in the
context of national industrialization that would generate mass employment
and will provide adequate income for the family of Filipino workers.
Palatino likewise advised basic skills
training, retraining and upgrading for teachers to solve the poor passing
rates in licensure examinations. “The government and our lawmakers must
also investigate the proliferation of fly-by-night schools and
pseudo-colleges which only serve as diploma-vending institutions but
produce mediocre graduates,” he concluded. Bulatlat
Joblessness Awaits Batch 2005
(First of two parts
By Carl Marc Ramota
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