Call Centres Replace Factories As Employment Hubs

Chennai: | Updated: Apr 24 2002, 05:30am hrs
“For most of the past century, the factory floor offered a path upwards for Americans short on education. But millions of ‘good’ manufacturing jobs have fallen victims to automation and global competition, leaving many low and semi-skilled workers to turn to a 21st century replacement - the telephone call centre,” says a recent research article published in Knowledge@Wharton, a bi-weekly online resource of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, USA.

According to Wharton management professor Steffanie L Wilk, call centres have become the place where a large number of people can be working.

Also, almost all businesses utilise call centres to some extent.

The study notes some striking similarities between call centres and factories.

Work at both the locations are highly regimented and constantly guaged against statistical performance standards, primarily speed. The call centre worker may be required to field a certain number of calls per hour and computer programmes can record workers activities.

However, call centres do not pay as well as factory jobs but the workplace tends to be cleaner and safer.

Unlike factories, call centres can be easily set up and taken down. If the local labour pool gets tight and wages begin to increase, the centre can be shifted.

In the United States, call centres are concentrated in the cheap labour markets of Midwest and Southwest. According to industry estimates, call centres employ 3.5 million workers, 75 per cent of them women. This makes the industry among the top three or four employment categories.

Whether the call centre is an improvement over factory work is unclear, said Ms Wilk.

“I guess you have to think about what improvement means. Call centre workers are less likely to lose fingers in whirling machines, though repetitive stress injuries are a hazard for computer users,” she added.