There’s still stigma around being a call center agent in Philippines

August 26, 2021 - 5:42 PM
Screengrabs from ABS-CBN's "Everybody, Sing!" episode via YouTube captured on August 26, 2021

A call center agent bared how people look down on workers like him despite being essential in the still ongoing pandemic.

This discrimination was talked about in an episode of ABS-CBN’s new program called “Everybody, Sing!” which was uploaded on YouTube on August 22.

In the video, Vice Ganda, the host, was congratulating the contestants, who were business process outsourcing agents, for winning P500,000.

He also praised them for their work amid the ongoing crisis.

“Ang hirap ng trabaho niyo a. Marami rin akong kakilalang nasa call center. I admire you, I salute you. And ang saya ko na mag-uuwi kayo ng P500,000,” the veteran comedian said.

One of the contestants named Macky suddenly got emotional.

When Vice Ganda asked him what’s wrong, the contestant shared his difficulties being a BPO worker in the Philippines.

“Masaya lang ako kasi for a very long time na nagwowork kami sa BPO, we are being degraded by a lot of people. They just think na nagpupuyat lang kami, nagyoyosi lang kami during our break times and lunch time pero di nila alam we are doing this for our families,” he said.

“Beyond the confidence na meron kami, habang nagtatake kami ng call, is yung fear na baka mawalan kami ng trabaho because of the pandemic. But then ito, we deserve this,” he added.

BPO employees, including those working in call centers, are normally not mentioned in talks about frontliners who risk themselves to the deadly virus outdoors.

It was only in May when the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) considered BPO workers as among the “essential workers” for COVID-19 vaccination.

Essential workers make up the A4 priority group of the national government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority also previously stated that these workers are also in the frontlines of the pandemic because BPO firms remained open even during the tough lockdowns and cater to urgent calls here and abroad.

‘Stop the stigma’

Filipinos who watched and shared the video clip stated that being a BPO employee is a respectable profession.

Others shared stories on how working in the industry helped them earn money for their families and allowed them to finish their studies.

“The dean of our law school (may he rest in peace) shamed me in front of his class after he learned that I work in a call center. He said it’s a stupid job. I let it pass coz it’s futile to argue with a law school dean. But that job helped me finish law school. I am proud of it,” one user said.

Facebook user Jhayar Ingan who previously worked in the call center industry shared a lengthy post about the difficulties and uncertainties of the job:

“There is such huge discrimination when one hears a person is working in a call center. Companies even have specific rules for application for loan, credit card, phone line and so many other things if you are working in a call center, and if you say call center, you can hear the aah of disappointment in their tones…

“Sad thing is, do these people actually know how freaking hard it is to get in a call center from the initial interview up to training even on the production floor?”

Others also defended the industry from derogatory remarks that suggest it is menial and lowly.

Kenneth Manuel, the 2019 bar topnotcher, expressed this on Twitter.

“Call center agents deserve respect. People tend to look down at them thinking voice BPO work is a brainless job. It’s not. Just because they’re numerous, it does not mean it’s easy. Just because they work irregular hours, it does not mean they’re valued less,” he wrote.

Another Twitter user said: “Sabi ng iba, basta marunong mag English pwede sa BPO. Nope. You need critical thinking, decision making, communication skills and lots of empathy.”