This Week's Herman Trend Alert

HR in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

September 3, 2003

All is Not Rosy in India

Americans workers express anger that their jobs are sent overseas; employers struggle with the costs of getting things done. Jobs in textiles, furniture manufacturing, assembly, accounting, computer programming, back office management, and call centers have been shifted overseas, notably to India and China.

Much has been said about the fine qualifications of many Indian and Chinese workers; it is easy to overlook the challenges faced by employers---and employees---in these other countries. The skills and productive capacity among these workers is not consistent; many simply can't do the work. Those who can perform are in higher demand, causing employee retention problems, as those companies begin the same kind of competition for labor seen in the United States. Reports are that some employers interview an average of 100 people for each person hired.

Inbound and outbound telephone call centers in India are growing, serving customers throughout North America. Hours are a serious problem, since the Indian employees must work on an American schedule. Days in the United States are nights in India. 9:00A.M. in New York is 6:30P.M. in New Delhi. Call center employees must work at night, when most people are accustomed to sleeping. These working hours are contrary to the normal circadian rhythms of the young people holding these jobs, often university students. Sleeplessness abounds. While answering queries on credit card statements, insurance premiums, bank accounts, technical hitches, and even selling products to a large part of the English- speaking population of the western world, these workers are also putting their health in jeopardy. Employers offer attractive salaries, comfortable workplaces, and employer-sponsored pizzas to offset bleary eyes, rising stress levels and confused body clocks. However, as the 40 per cent annual attrition rate indicates, workers cannot live this way.

Although health professionals notice a clear rise in young people seeking counseling for stress, depression, and a host of related psychological and physiological problems and employers acknowledge the stress, no one is yet taking steps to address the problems. A $2.3 billion industry projecting 800,000 jobs by 2008 encourages the government, intent on globalization, to look the other way.

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