Spike in customer calls send call centers hiring during lockdown

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
The government has exempted BPO workers from the lockdown, allowing their companies swiftly to adapt to the situation by providing transportation to employees and, in some cases, free lodging to staff.
File Photo

MANILA, Philippines — Demand for call center workers bucked a declining trend in job postings during the lockdown of Luzon as the industry sought to answer a surge in phone calls from customers stuck at home.

“They continue to move on and provide jobs,” Philip Gioca, country manager of JobStreet Philippines, said at a briefing on Tuesday. 

“They also open up opportunities for those with no experience in many cases because these are the candidates that are willing to actually work despite the pandemic,” he added.

While growth figures were not provided, there were 22,795 call center job postings for fresh graduates from March 15 to April 30, equivalent to 41% of the total hiring opportunities in the online employment site.

Far in second place were 8,105 government job postings, followed by 4,696 in the education sector. The latter two accounted for 15% and 9% share, respectively.

The data matters as the survey on job placements was conducted during the 45-day enhanced community quarantine of Metro Manila when most business establishments were closed down, which theoretically should have slowed down hiring. 

From just the National Capital Region (NCR) in March 15, the lockdown was extended to cover the entire Luzon in March 17 April 30. By May 1, only 10 areas including NCR, Cebu City and Pampanga remained under ECQ, while the rest of the archipelago were placed under more relaxed quarantine rules. 

For call centers, which are a crucial part of dollar-earning business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, companies turned to candidates who are “a little less qualified” to meet manpower demand, Gioca said. This, in turn, accelerated the recruitment process.

BPO workers were exempted by the government from quarantine rules so long as their companies provide them shuttle services or accommodation.

“The hirers are also becoming smarter in terms of efficiencies. Now, they can do all the interviews virtually. (BPOs) continue to do that,” Gioca said in a press conference streamed through Zoom.

“They continue to trust the candidates despite not seeing them face-to-face,” he said. 

30-50% drop in job postings

Overall however, at a time of the strict enforcement of the lockdown, JobStreet saw a 30-50% decline in job postings driven mainly by a slump on hiring from small- and –medium enterprises (SMEs) which were among the badly hit sectors of the pandemic.

Government data showed more than 98% of local firms are SMEs and Gioca said “because of their capitalization,” which tend to be smaller, these firms lost appetite for hiring at a time they were not earning because of closures.

Hiring activity have started to pick up in May when areas deemed low risk for coronavirus transmissions transitioned out of ECQ to the more relaxed general community quarantine.

“Now that we are in May, we are seeing very good traction now and people are starting to post again,” Gioca said, without citing figures.

“When it comes to June, people will start posting their jobs. It's just a good indicator that business is about to start again,” he added.

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