The Wheel and Axle

The New Overseas Filipino Worker

by on Sep.11, 2013, under Snark, Society

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I have been in the industry I work in for over a decade. Through various companies including the present, I have experienced its various iterations: call center, back office, insourcing, offshoring, global service center, global solutions. In all cases, it has shown me how world-class Filipino talent is.

Thus, it irks me no end when I hear an arrogant moron telling an agent, “Operator ka lang?” or when I hear a sneering ignoramus say, “Fad lang ‘yang offshore-offshore na ‘yan!

(By the way, being a phone operator is nothing to be ashamed of. It is an honest living.)

Fact No. 1. Save perhaps for our heroic OFWs, often in jobs they are overqualified for, this industry has brought in more money to the Philippines than any other. Through many crises, we helped save the economy. It is no coincidence that, after the 1997 Asian crisis, the Philippines came out (relatively) unscathed because the late 90s was when outsourcing started gaining traction. It is no coincidence that we improved even with a USA recession in the late 2000s.



Fact No. 2. Offshoring is not limited to the call center industry. It is by far the most well-known of the business, and certainly one that has helped boost awareness of our capabilities, but it is a small percentage of the industry. Non-voice work such as healthcare and medical transcription are strong businesses, and definitely IT/web development is a powerful driver of the industry (or did you not know that a lot of the technology beyond our borders were actually created here?).

Fact No. 3. Offshoring is not limited to outsourcing. Many companies have started to “insource,” meaning, they set up “captive” offices in offshore destinations and utilize these sites as service centre hubs. It is the set-up of a multinational company, basically.

Fact No. 4. This industry requires brains. While certainly it is not rocket science, jobs in this industry require excellent communication skills (verbal and written, English or otherwise), strong analytical and problem-solving skills, and high computer literacy. Ever wonder why many people still do not pass screenings for these companies?

Fact No. 5. This industry requires high EQ. People skills are important, whether it be to provide empathy for customers or to deal with difficult clients. It requires a strong sense of character, as most multinationals have strict codes of conduct, compliance, and ethics. Resiliency and dedication are also key, for where others will crumble at the mere sight of floodwaters, workers in this industry brave such torrents to continue serving the world.

Fact No. 6. Training and professional development are given more importance than any other industry. Management training is also a key factor in the success of these companies. Note that many of these companies are run by people who do not always have management degrees; heck, my degree is in Biology. Most of my colleagues do not have MBAs, but they will run rings around those with MBAs if they were placed in a traditional company.

Fact No. 7. The average income in this industry is higher. Modesty aside, we earn more than most, thank you. Our international counterparts save a lot of money in labor arbitrage. They can fund companies here at a fraction of what it would cost to keep the work there. However, due to exchange rates, that fraction is still significantly above our cost of living, allowing employees here to be paid above the average income of local companies. They save money while we earn more. It’s a win/win situation and one of the main reasons this industry thrives.



Fact No. 8. The industry supports globalization. Those who refuse to see the value of an industry intimately tied to globalization will be left behind. Our advantage is unique. We provide cultural compatibility with most international markets given our strong Western influence, our Eastern heritage, and Filipino hospitality. Our workforce is strong in English, and we also have a good percentage that can support Spanish and (to some extent) other languages such as French, German, Korean, and more – a key differentiator that our competitors such as India and China do not always have. This allows us to support other markets and not just the USA, as incorrectly perceived by many.

Fact No. 9. What we do impacts not just ourselves, not just our country, but also the world. We are part of a bigger picture, and what we do moves not just our country, but also the world. I speak not of just mere customer service, but also how our work has spanned various markets such as government, trade, shipping, finance, economy, and more. We are movers and shakers of the world. Nevertheless, despite our global service…

Fact No. 10. … we  serve our country. I do not have anything against people who migrate because they perceive a futureless Philippines, and with the bizarre circus we call Pinoy politics, who can blame them? However, I have always found it sad that they have given up on this nation. I am doubly-saddened by people I know who, after having been given the privilege of state-subsidized education, decide to take their skills elsewhere.

(I believe it was Winnie Monsod who suggested that those who gained state education should serve locally for X number of years before they migrate. Pay the country back and be grateful for what it gave you. I do not disagree with this sentiment; it is basic delicadeza. Do not complain about lack of Philippine progress if you will not do anything at all to help it. But I digress. It is a topic for another day.)

In any case, there are still those of us who believe there is hope for this nation, and the hope is in its workforce. There are opportunities here. If you work hard and have the right skills, there is no reason to leave and not serve the country right here. The only way for our nation to have a future is for us to trust and work for its future (them politicians be damned).

People complain about brain drain. We have people lamenting that our countrymen migrate, and yet the same people look down upon the one industry that can bring those same opportunities right here at home.

At the heart of it, this industry is basically the same as that of the OFW, except that instead of us going to other countries for work, other countries bring their work to us. We are the new OFW, laborers who support overseas markets but who do not have to leave their families behind to earn a substantial income.

Is that not good? We bring in the “dollars” without having to sacrifice being with our families. We are work-from-home OFWs.

And to those poor, uneducated souls who still refuse to see this reality and continue to question the validity of this industry, I ask you:

Has your work been crucial to the welfare of consumers around the globe, wherein if you don’t do your job, people the world over would have no support for what they have put their money in, whether it be utilities, products, or services?

Has your work involved the resolution of banking fraud, wherein if you don’t do your job, the risk to international banking will increase?

Has your work resulted in the creation of a technological infrastructure, wherein if you don’t do your job, governments could fall?

Has your work affected healthcare in other countries, wherein if you don’t do your job, doctors and hospitals do not get paid and medical services can be stalled, jeopardizing human life?

Has your work impacted global trade, wherein if you don’t do your job, import and export between countries can be aversely affected and international economies could potentially be destabilized?


Then please, shut up.

(And learn proper grammar and spelling while you’re at it. No wonder you’re bitter.)



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2 Comments for this entry

  • direkeli

    Excellent article, my friend. To top it all, the world has not seen it all just yet. There is so much more that the Filipino can bring to the table – not just pork. Who knows? Maybe the solution to the PDAF issue may just come from our industry. But i digress.

  • allancarreon

    Thanks, Direk Eli. 🙂 I think if we apply certain BPO practices to how we run government, we may have a chance. However, that may be thinking too much outside the box at this point in history and may scare off traditionalists. Haha.


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