Call centers—centralized offices that handle large volumes of telephone calls for the purposes of providing consumer support, conducting telemarketing and collecting debts,among other functions—are a major source of employment in the United States. Aboutfour million people are employed in the call center industry, or three percent of the U.S.workforce.Improved telecommunications infrastructure now allows companies to more easily“offshore”—that is, to move their call centers to countries where they pay lower wages,face weaker oversight (particularly in relation to consumer privacy standards) and avoidstate and federal taxes in the U.S.In this report, the Center for Working Families, an independent, unaffiliated research andadvocacy group, reviews the problems caused by offshoring of call center jobs and proposes policy solutions. The report draws heavily on previous research conducted bythe Communications Workers of America.
Accurate, timely data on offshoring are scarce. Still, it’s clear that residents of New York and New Jersey have reason to worry about loss of call center jobs:
By one estimate—an examination of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, which chartsemployment changes by occupation—New York State lost 8,930 call center industry jobs between 2005 and 2010.
By the same measure, 18,110 jobs have been lost in the New Jersey call center sector.
In other words, New York andNew Jersey lost over 27,000 call center jobs combined from 2005 to 2010.
(See graph on next page.)
The finance industry, which is a bulwark of New York’s economy and importantto New Jersey’s, is expected to move 15 percent of its operations overseas by2015, with information technology (and therefore call centers) comprising a large portion of offshored work.
Verizon, one of the states’ large employers and a major operator of call centers,has been shedding jobs for over a decade. Over 4,500 Verizon call center jobswere lost in New York between 2000 and 2012. In New Jersey, the company haseliminated 2,370 high-tech customer service jobs.