Friday, December 28, 2007

BPOs face health problems

Job came up with a very good salary. But, Vaibhav Vats tell you, it was doing him no good.

At his age of 26 Vaibhav's weight had grown to 120 kilos and he was missing a social life as he worked long night hours at a call center.


“You are making nice money. But the tradeoff is also big,” said Vats, those who spent nearly two years at IBM call center in India, answering customer calls from the United States.

Call centers and other businesses such as software writing, medical transcription and back-office work employ more than 1.6 million young men and women in India, mostly in their 20s and 30s, who make much more than their contemporaries in most other professions.

They are, however, facing sleep disorders, heart disease, depression and family discord, according to doctors and several industry surveys.

Experts warn the brewing crisis could undermine the success of India's hugely profitable outsourcing industry that earns billions in dollars annually and has shaped much of the country's transformation into an emerging economic power.

Heart diseases, strokes and diabetes cost India an estimated $9 billion in lost productivity in 2005. But the losses could grow to a staggering $200 billion (euro135 billion) over the next 10 years if corrective action is not taken quickly, said a study by New Delhi-based Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.

The outsourcing industry would be hardest hit, it warned. Reliable estimates on the number of people affected are hard to come by, but government officials and experts agree that it is a growing problem.

Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss wants to enforce a special health policy for employees in the information technology industry.

“After working, they party for the rest of the time ... (They) have bad diet, excessive smoking and drinking,” he said at a public meeting last month. “We don't want these young people to burn out.”

The minister's comments have since infuriated the technology sector, which says it has been unfairly singled out for problems that also exist in other professions.

The outsourcing industry has come under fire because the sedentary lifestyle of its employees combined with often stressful working conditions makes them more vulnerable to heart disease, digestive problems and weight gain than others. Some complain of psychological distress.

Many call center jobs insist responding to phone calls through the night from customers in the United States and Europe -- some of them whom can be angry and rude. It is monotonous and there is little meaningful personal interaction among corporate-workers. Itz true of other jobs such as software writing and back-office work.
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