Approximately 25,000 Jamaicans are employed in the Business Process Outsourcing – BPO – sector. Despite talks of being a ‘sweat shop’ with long work hours and low salaries, the BPO sector continues to be a platform for youth employment and career advancement.
The ‘sweat shop’ culture of local BPOs may be more rumours than actuality. I spoke with an under 30-year-old woman employed at a BPO centre in Portmore, St. Catherine. She has been working at the centre for five years and is happy with her job.
“It’s great…the growth is tremendous and the opportunities are vast. I went from an agent to a senior Manager in less than four years. People might be skeptical about a ‘call center’ career but go in it with an open mindset. Find your niche in the BPO industry. Find where you fit,” she said.
There is also a big misunderstanding that the BPO sector equals a call centre. Business Process Outsourcing services target offshore or nearshore back-office operations such as accounting, human resource management, and customer service, including call centre operations. In Jamaica there are varied types of work being done, through some 40 companies established in the local BPO sector. Companies offering outsourcing solutions for various international brands established here in the past and present. Jamaicans offering technical support and rectifying troubleshooting issues, for clients of companies such as Humana, Netflix, Amazon, iPhone and iMac.
The Jamaican Government formalised the BPO sector in recent years. There is also the privately managed support group, the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica – BPIAJ. Jamaica has a competitive edge in this sector, due to its geographical location, the ability of nationals to speak English, as well as the educational qualifications of citizens. Not to mention Jamaica’s time zone is also a plus, meaning the country is not going to sleep when a large percentage of the world is waking-up.
There are several BPO entities across the country. World renowned BPO companies such as IBEX Global and Sutherland Global have set-up branches on the island. Montego Bay, Portmore, Mandeville as well as the University of the West Indies, Mona all have BPO offices.
Part reason why many persons have reservations towards the BPO sector is the secrecy that surrounds the operation. Due to client confidentiality agreements, the public is not allowed inside most BPO offices. As such, often negative comments arise as to the work culture and operations.
My contact added: “It’s not a sweat shop and the pay is not the worst and you do get opportunity to get bonus in most of the centres that I know. Attainable bonus that can give you a significant boost on your regular pay. Your hours are regular hours as stipulated by the GOJ”.
Let’s correct what needs to be and offer a collaborative approach to the operation of the local BPO sector which is a conduit for job creation and economic growth!