Call centers: co-opting the Filipino identity

By Jan M. Padios/baltimoresun.com – What changes when a country devotes itself to servicing the businesses of other countries?

Call centers are big business in the Philippines. As a doctoral student, I researched the industry there between 2008 and 2013, when the Southeast Asian nation became a top destination for outsourced jobs from industrialized countries, the U.S. chief among them. In 2011, the Philippines surpassed India to become the world’s capital of call centers.

In an interview, Melvin Legarda and Joseph Santiago, executives at the organization then known as the Business Process Outsourcing Association of the Philippines, argued that Filipinos possess an innate capacity for empathy, compassion and general “service-orientation” and thus are ideal for call center work.

The roots of Filipino identity, they explained, were grounded in the country’s experience of colonialism, occupation and debt. After over 300 years of colonization by the Spanish, Japanese occupation in World War II, U.S. colonization in the first half of the 20th century, and the severe debt crisis of the late-20th century, Filipinos had become a benevolent and compassionate people, which made them perfect for serving customers over the phone.

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