Outsourcing: Is it ‘Slave Labor’? With Arnold San Miguel
Last updated August 15, 2019
Arnold San Miguel has been in the BPO industry for many years. Giving him first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to work in the BPO sector.
Arnold will briefly discuss how the BPO industry has changed over the years. It is far from how it was years ago. He will also discuss the perception of the people outside the Philippines. In this episode, he will share with us his insights and experiences in working In the BPO industry.
- For most Filipinos, working in the BPO industry is the same as working for any Corporate Company. Very stable and fit for their specializations.
- The BPO industry has changed gradually over the years, from merely emails and calls to more specialized tasks such as graphic designing and website managing.
- 10 t0 15 years ago BPO companies are very strict, however, nowadays, a lot of companies are becoming less strict to attract more efficient employees. One very good example is Google.
- Arnold also addressed concerns about compensation, since the normal salary for BPO companies ranges from $300-$500 per month. He said that $500 is enough for a bachelor to live by but not enough if you have three children. However, the benefits given to employees will definitely help.
- In choosing whether to go for a big BPO or a small BPO company, it will all boil down to employee preference. It mainly revolves around compensation and benefits, location, work environment and job fit.
- The BPO industry has evolved over the years. From emails and calls to more specialized tasks such as graphic designing and website managing.
- For Filipinos, working for a BPO company is the same as working for a Corporate company. Both offer stability and job fit.
- Companies planning to outsource to the Philippines should always consider the value of their money in the Philippines. This is to offer their employees a fair salary.
Derek: Hi, and welcome back to another episode of the outsource accelerator. My name is Derek Gallimore and today again we are joined with my co-host Arnold San Miguel, and we talk about what it’s like working in a BPO? What is the real life? Day and life of the BPO worker. Arnold has been working in BPOs for many years, so, it’s a great firsthand experience. If you want any of the show notes, go to outsourceaccelerator.com/podcast/episode8. Enjoy.
Derek: Arnold, I want to have a chat with you today about getting a sense of what is like inside BPOs. Before I entered the BPO world, I had two very distinct impressions of the sector, there is this smarmy set of stock photo images of people in suits with high tech telephones on their face and all smiley. And then, there is also the concern that the other side of the coin is that it is a sweatshop with people earning below, you know, reasonable salaries. What is the reality there and what is your experience of working in a BPO?
Arnold: Yeah, that’s very interesting because for us, mostly the Filipinos, if you ask us how is it like working in a big BPO company or a smaller one, they will just say it’s the same as working in any corporate company. They are very stable, we do jobs that are fit for what we specialize in. The pay is good, the facilities are great, and the benefits are perfect for us.
It’s actually weird that some people, mostly outside the Philippines have this mindset that we are slaves or things like that, but in reality, we actually like the work that we are doing, it gives us the opportunity to work with people in other cultures and it’s also a big bonus that we’re heavily western influenced. So, it gives us an easier transition when we want to learn about the process of certain companies.
Derek: Okay. So, the BPO sector, if you are working in that sector, are your parents proud of you, is it good as being a doctor, or better being a nurse because from what I hear on the street is that, BPO workers earn relatively, a lot of money, using the comparison of nurses. And is it now something that everyone is working towards or is it seen as a ‘cop-out’?
Arnold: Well, I think it gradually changed over time, maybe ten to fifteen years ago, if someone says, I work in a BPO company people would normally say, oh! So you are taking in calls over and people shout at you or you are processing an email or replying to customer inquiries. Well, that might be true ten, fifteen years ago, that’s not the case nowadays.
If people say that they work in an outsourcing company or in a BPO company, they could be an accountant, they could be a lawyer, a medical transcriptionist, a graphic designer, a person who manages your website, and it varies a lot. So people don’t have that mindset nowadays, they actually respect people working in BPOs because they know that, they are adaptable, they can adapt…
Derek: Yeah, and it’s more and more skill sense now, so, it’s getting a lot deeper, it’s not just people on, as you say, people on the other end the phone helping with customer service. There’s people building websites, there’s people, you know, deep diving into every specialty now; isn’t that right?
Okay, interesting. So, if you could paint a picture of what a BPO looks like, is there any one ‘scene’, is it like Google or is it like working in a Bank or just sort of a quickly paint the scene or does it vary?
Arnold: Yeah. Well, again ten to fifteen years ago, the big BPOs are the companies who started really investing in the BPO scene could be linked to traditional companies, like they have this big building that they occupy and most of their offices are very strict, lobby guards or rules inside them, lockers, where you need to put your stuff into.
But nowadays, you know, there are a lot of companies that their aim is to attract effective, efficient employees that one of their perks would be a less strict environment and more fun environment. So yeah, think of Google as one example, they actually already have an office here in the Philippines. When you check it out, they have a very good ambience. So, it’s targeted toward creative employees, so, it puts you in the working mood, if I may say so. And I think that already changed a lot compared to a few years ago.
Derek: And do you think that is a world trend, I think maybe the BPO sector has even influenced that because it’s almost Americanizing the work places or is it something that would have happened, anyway, without the BPO sector?
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Arnold: I think it’s heavily influenced by the BPO sector knowing that, almost all of the work that we do are based outside the Philippines hence the reason outsourcing. So, I think we are just the people who manage the outsourcing companies are simply just imitating what’s working out there in other countries.
Derek: Can I spring this question on you a little bit, say what you think of this. It may be more of a concern of the people in the west, but they don’t want to be endorsing slave labor. And there is a concern in the West that if we bring on people in the Philippines, paying them $300 a month, $400, $500 a month, that, someone is getting abused in this process. What are your thoughts on that?
Arnold: I think that’s a valid concern for any business owner that’s interested in outsourcing to the Philippines, but also we have to consider the value of the money that they are paying the employee. So, $500 might not be enough for someone to live by in America or in Europe but we also have to consider how the prices are in the Philippines. One could live off, by a few dollars a day here. So, they still have enough to save on with that salary range.
Derek: So, where does $500 put you in a packing order of lifestyles in Philippines? If you are securely earning $500 dollars a month; what sort of life style can you get here?
Arnold: I think it’s enough for a bachelor to live by, it might not be enough to support three kids, but the benefit that goes along with works like this one is definitely gonna be able to help a family.
Derek: Great. And one last question, so, a big BPO or a small BPO; what are people’s preference, so, whether you are going for the big guns work, five thousand employee or a small BPO of a hundred employees.
Arnold: I think that’s a very interesting topic to discuss because there is no one fit, you know, choice for everyone, it really just boils down to the employee preference. And when I say preference, it revolves around salary, how attractive is the compensation, location, if it takes me three hours to get there, then it’s useless for me because I won’t have enough time to spend with my hobbies or with my family.
Maybe job fit, if I took up nursing I would except something related to health or medical transcription. Also, other factors that people are now looking into is career growth, which is very applicable even if it’s a small one or a big BPO.
For a small BPO, they have this mentality where in, I will be part of the pioneer team, so if the company grows, and if I put in the effort I am gonna grow with the company. But for the big BPOs, people have this mentality where in, I’m in a stable and environmental ready, I just need to do my best, if an opportunity pops up, I will take advantage of that.
The last one would be the work place environment, it might be good, the pay is good but if it’s just a very basic, boring office structure, like, not enough space in my workstation then it could force me to look for another job.
Derek: Yeah. And again, I suppose that’s like the west way, you get start-ups and you are sitting on a dodgy homemade desk, but it could become a unicorn versus the big corporate where you have got everything in place, you know, your career is a lot more locked in and it isn’t predetermined.
Okay Arnold, that’s amazing. Thank you for your time and hopefully that provided some insight. And we will talk to you soon.
Arnold: Thanks Derek, have a good day.
Derek: Okay, I hope you got some valuable insight there, if you want the show notes, anything we mentioned in there, the summaries. Then, go to outsourceaccelerator.com/podcast/episode8.
See you next time.