Following the Polokwane conference, decent work for all has become one of the ANC’s key priorities.*1 According to the IOL and WTO, decent work opportunites involve creating freely chosen, productive jobs for women and men; jobs that are in safe, healthy, participatory work environments and that afford them decent and equitable remuneration, social protection and, whenever possible, professional development. *2 All of the above criteria that define decent jobs can be found in contact centres because they offer:
Permanent Jobs with Good Pay
Only 25% of staff are temporary workers compared to the national average of 50% of all workers. More than half of employees stay with the same employer for more than two years.
Contact Centers pay well and provide good advancement opportunities. Average entry level salary for agents with no experience are R6561 per month. Agents with experience earn on average R8339. Salaries for supervisors raise to R12 4573 and go as high as R60 000 for top managers.
In 2008, salaries increased by 20%, a rate significantly exceeding inflation, testimony to the growth of demand in the sector and a shortage in supply of skilled people in the sector. *4
Since good customer service ultimately depends on motivated employees contact centers are typically managed according to best HR practices, in compliance with the labour law.
Basic benefits are also provided for eg, medical aid, provident fund, wellness programmes. All statutory benefits are administered in accordance with the labour relations act and basic conditions of employment.
Contact centers present a well defined career path. Qualifications for agents, supervisor and managers are registered with SAQA as per the National Qualifications Framework.
52% of contact centers have their training materials SETA accredited. 56% of companies train their staff for more than 10 days a year.
Apart from a career in the contact center industry, graduates can also pursue careers in: customer care, sales, marketing, IT and administration. As a matter of fact, contact center employees are sought after because of their understanding of the world of work and their exceptional communication, customer service skills and computer skills. *5
Safe and Equitable Employment
The workforce is largely representative of the population, 85% of agents and 75% of supervisors are historically disadvantaged individuals, equally distributed across both genders.
Contact center work is a white-collar profession. It is therefore safe. Each workstation is equipped with a computer. 74% of contact centers have more than 5m2 meter of space per consultants. 68% have canteens. 43% have acoustic control.
We can speak about the standards which have been developed by the contact center industry and are SABS governed. This also contributes to safety and equitable environment.
Because contact center work is not physically demanding, it is well suited for the physically disabled. 78% of contact centres have access for the disabled and 72% have special toilets. *6
Jobs That Help Reduce Poverty
The industry has created over 100’000 jobs in the last five years and is expected to generate at least that many jobs over the same period in future especially since the BPO sector is one of the key pillars of governments industrial strategy.
Ideally suited for school levers, 48% of contact centers do not require previous experience and 68% require only Matric as entry level qualification
Contact Centers can also make a contribution to rural development. Given the industry’s continuous demand for new people, contact center operators prefer to set up new sites in places where workers are readily available as is the case in rural areas. Leveraging that trend, the DTI has therefore created incentives for companies to move into designated underdeveloped areas, in order to spread the opportunity and shift the focus away from more active regions.
Research by the Business Trust shows that for every new direct job in the BPO sector, three other indirect jobs are created. If one takes into account that the average family has four members, for every job created in the BPO industry 12 people are benefited.
The BPO sector has enjoyed robust growth over the past five years. As customers expect ever more from businesses, contact centers have hired on average 15% more people every year, growing the industry from 70 000 to 170 000 employees *7.
Traditionally, contact centers have employed inexperienced people, particularly large companies which have their own in-house training programmes. Learnerships are therefore common in that sector. Almost half of all contact centers have had learners in their businesses.*8 As companies are forced to do more with less, they are now even more open to alternative means of recruitment and training. A recent request for expression of interest into learnerships by the industry association was oversubscribed by a factor of ten. In short, learners are in demand by the industry.
Despite the current economic downturn, the sector is expected to prosper especially since the South African government has identified the Business Process Outsourcing and Off-shoring (BPO&O) sector as one of the top three priority sectors to stimulate growth within its Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative (ASGI-SA).
“Recent events would only reinforce the need to continue with offshoring. Anything that delivers cost savings will be encouraged.“ The Everest Research Institute expects the growth rate of the offshore BPO market to be tempered in the short-term, i.e., between 0-10% over the next 18 months to pick-up once again in the region of 20-30% by 2011-12, to eventually grow at 50% per annum, which is expected to lead to 100,000 new jobs *9
Given the positive prospects for creating new employment in the sector and the willingness of the sector to employ learners, the proposed project will be sustainable in the long term.
1 ANC Today, Volume 8, No. 2 •18—24 January 2008:http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/anctoday/2008/at02.htm#art1
2 International Labour Organisation: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/afpro/cairo/
3 BPO & Call Centre Report 2007/08, p146
4 Kelly Contact Centre Salary Survey 2008
5 South African Qualifications Authority: http://regqs.saqa.org.za/viewQualification.php?id=67466
6 BPO & Call Centre Report 2007/08
7 BPO & Call Centre Report 2007/08, Multimedia Group, 2008
8 BPO & Call Centre Report 2007/08, Multimedia Group, 2008 p84
9 Ready to Compete, The Everest Group and Letsema Consulting, Department of Trade and Industry