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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 September 2005, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Offshoring 'has not hit UK jobs'
Call centre
More than 350,000 people work in British call centres
The trend for British firms to move call centre jobs to low-cost countries has not reduced UK employment growth, research has found.

Job growth in 'IT-enabled services' such as call centres has risen three times faster than the UK average, the Office for National Statistics said.

More than a million people work in this area while the UK remains a net exporter of such services.

Offshoring has been a popular move for British banks in recent years.

Healthy state

Lloyds TSB, HSBC and Norwich Union have transferred call centre and IT jobs from the UK to Asia in recent years in the hope of reducing costs.

Experts have forecast that offshore outsourcing of call centre work could grow by 25% over the next five years.

Employment growth in the occupations considered susceptible to offshoring has been very strong
Gawain Heckley, Office for National Statistics

Despite this trend, the ONS said the IT services and call-centre industries in the UK were still in a healthy state.

According to its Labour Force Survey, about 670,000 people worked in IT services as of May 2005 while nearly 375,000 people worked in call-centre and customer care related jobs.

Employment in the two sectors has risen 8.8% since 2001, according to labour statistics, compared to a 3.2% rise in overall job growth.

Although redundancy levels in the two industries are far higher than the national average, the rate of job losses is falling.

Buoyant market

"Employment growth in the occupations considered susceptible to offshoring has been very strong," said Gawain Heckley, an analyst with the Office's Labour Market Division.

"The overall picture for the UK is very healthy with the UK being a net exporter of intermediate services and also possessing a very buoyant labour market in this sector."

Call centre in India
There is room for both UK and Indian call centres in the outsourcing market
Matthew Vallance, ICICI OneSource

Offshoring does not seem to have had a disproportionate impact on any area of the UK, the research found.

While South East England, Wales and Northern Ireland have all seen a fall in IT and call-centre related jobs over the past four years, the declines have been relatively small.

Other regions have either seen growth in jobs or stable employment.

Mix and match

One leading Indian call centre operator said it made sense for some companies to have contact centres in both the UK and Asia.

"There is room for both UK and Indian call centres in the outsourcing market," said Matthew Vallance, european president of ICICI OneSource, whose clients include Lloyds TSB and Prudential.

"Many organisations are seeking a "blended delivery" model with calls being taken in the UK and India.

"This enables 24 hour service and faster response call times."

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