Friday, October 21, 2005

Revival of Indian Act Threatens Call Centers

The revival of a long forgotten law, banning women from working through the night has threatened the outsourcing market in India.

Today, women workers account for more than 40 percent of the call center work force. Important attributes required for working in a call center, such as politeness, patience, good convincing skills and a proper working knowledge of computers can be found abundantly in the urban women of India. It is therefore no surprise that women occupy several important positions such as team leaders and managers in Indian call centers. However, the revival of this law might have dire consequences on the growth and boom of the BPO industry.

The Labor Department of the State of Haryana has cited the Punjab Shops and Commercial Establishments Act of 1958, which forbids women from working night shifts. Notices have been sent out to several Gurgaon-based call centers with regards to the same.

Section 30 of the act mentions that ‘no woman shall be required or allowed to work, whether as an employee or otherwise, in any establishment during the night’. IT companies in the state of Haryana are exempted from this law. However, the state claims that call centers and not IT companies and hence the law should be applied.

Since India is a federal jurisdiction, the law won’t be applicable throughout the country and will differ from state to state. However, for cities like Gurgaon, which house several multinational call centers, the immediate future looks shaky. Although the law will not have a permanent effect on the growth of the call centers, it will hamper the boom in the industry.