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Call me, maybe?

2 September 2013

I know, this is crazy…

Franco Ordonez, McClatchy via Modesto Bee:

Under President Barack Obama, U.S.

immigration officials have deported more than 1.4 million people, at an annual rate that, if it continuers, will exceed any other American president. Mexico-based call centers, serving the United States and other foreign markets, grew 116 percent from 8,632 to 18,701 locations from 2007 to 2010, according to research by Jordy Micheli Thirion, an economics professor at the Metropolitan Autonomous University in Azcapotzalco , Mexico.

Photo:  Forbes.com

Photo: Forbes.com

Anderson estimates that more than 60 percent of the employees at some of the major Mexico City call centers are deportees, based on conversations with managers and workers.

I’m of two minds about this. By way of full disclosure, I had a contract job with a large Mexican call-center, testing candidates for supervisory positions on their English, and working on conversational English with some managers. I know call centers suck, and the working conditions (and hours) are stressful and unrewarding.

On the other hand… I now live in a resort town, full of foreign retirees, and where I’m often running into recent deportees who are at a loss as to how to survive in a country that — if they remember it at all — has changed dramatically in the last few years, and whose culture is basically (if not completely) alien — one should never make the mistake of assuming Mexican-American culture is Mexican culture. The deportees I run into often have some sort of job skills, but having grown up in the United States, just don’t know how to navigate Mexican employment, and find that they are competing for jobs against entrenched locals who have family or other social connections that will assist them in job hunting and… for the purposes of resort town work… already know enough English to do the low level types of jobs that are available. And, the deportees, often as not, speak American English better than Spanish… or at least they speak Spanish with an American accent.

It’s a shame, but call centers do require some education, and were pushed as “job creation” (sucky jobs, but counted as jobs) in the U.S. — often to replace manufacturing jobs “lost” to Mexico.

So, between better telephone technology that makes calling to and from Mexico seamless (as Ordonez mentions, “Press 2 for Spanish” calls from the United States have been routed to Mexico for several years now). and the “export” of the resources from the United States at low cost, Mexico is becoming the unlikely competitor to U.S. businesses whose location in the U.S. could only be sold on the premise that “customers want to speak to people who talk like us”.

And, while not the best use of the resources of the returnees, not the worst, either.

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