A new study has revealed that Indian business process outsourcing (BPO) workers face racial abuse almost on a daily basis. The survey was conducted by Sweta Ranjan-Rankin from the University of Kent, UK. Not only racial abuse, the workers are almost always accused of being 'job thieves'.
"It is a post-recession reality. Western clients are extremely cagey. If they think you are an Indian, their biggest fear is you are stealing their job and that everything is being outsourced," says Rajan-Rankin. She conducted the study based on ethnographic research with two global outsourcing firms operating call centres in India from 2010-12. A report in TOI says that almost all the employees interviewed for the study were accused and cursed.
Ranjan-Rankin said, "In terms of the current context, with Brexit in the UK and Trump in America, recession, pulling back of services, we have seen a resurgence of national politics... you might see much more customer abuse, much more racial abuse." She further added that in the 1990s, when companies came to India they followed something called 'complete masking'. It essentially means that the ethnic identity of the caller is hidden. Ranjan-Rankin adds that this is done so that the companies can portray that the services are available in the same country.
"The rules of call agents don't allow them to disclose that they are working in India, no matter what. As a result they get enormous amounts of abuse, which is often racial in nature," said Rajan-Rankin.
The employers would even send the employees to America to brush up the American accent and voice modulation. In fact, they would be given lessons on popular culture and baseball.
"Narratives around identity masking of call agents are rooted in attempts to stem racial abuse from western clients who may perceive them as 'job thieves'," Rajan-Rankin said. A lot of the abuse is triggered by the receiver's disbelief over the caller's identity.
Employees also take to substance abuse to deal with the stress and long work hours. They would also face a lot of health issues - mental and physical.